Duos. Intrinsically, I’m implacably opposed to this hipster-beloved band configuration, and at first glance The Cold Stares, with their beard and flat cap combinations, would appear to be just candidates for my shit list. But there they are, resplendent with an offer from the excellent Small Stone label – from whom I haven’t heard a duff album yet – so they must be worth a prejudice-defying listen, right?
Too right. Despite the absence of a bassist – and still, beyond the obvious merch-split advantages of keeping things streamlined, I don’t see why this modern trend for duos persists – this American duo rock like the proverbial hurricanes.
The crux of this brilliance is the superb guitar playing and singing of Chris Tapp, a man of immense talent who appears to be the living proof that’s it’s possible to take the essence of two superbeings and fuse them into the body of one normal human receptor; in this case Tapp is the living host for a spellbinding fusion of Free’s Paul Rogers and Grand Funk’s Mark Farner, the result being one of the single biggest matchwinning performances thus far in 2017.
Neighbor Blues is quite superb, rooted in the blues, obviously, with it’s mentions of killing floors, but beefed up with an uber-doom riff barrage that Tony Iommi would be utterly proud of. This truly is classic rock for the modern age.
Ball and Twine is another highlight, being a smoky tale of the American Civil War full of atmosphere and doom-laden intent, Tapp’s knack for a story bolstered again by his superb fretwork and the deft percussional support of drummer Brian Mullins, who’s clearly no slouch himself behind the kit, even if he is reduced to a support role throughout. Elsewhere God and Country sounds like Rival Sons – but don’t hold that against them – whilst closer Break My Fall is a classic Gallows Pole-style paean to the hangman that’s packed with pathos and receives another superb vocal from Tapp, not to mention the superbly evocative acoustic accompaniment he delivers.
All bases covered, then, from Americana to all-guns blazing southern rock, and all done with an eye for detail and the sort of confidence only the truly talented can bring to proceedings; in short, this is pretty much an essential purchase.
The Cold Stares released Head Bent on June 16th – go get it!