Kanye Westboro Baptist Church
Moving Air Music
Release date: May 20, 2016
Sweden’s The Bloakes are not a band that feels the need to make music that reflects current trends. In recent years, there has been a revival of the 1970’s rock style that has brought the world bands like Ghost, Gentlemen’s Pistols, and a horde of similar groups who play an amped up version of retro rock. The Bloakes look back even further, channeling the music of the 1960’s and morphing it with modern rock melody and production to create something unique in today’s musical landscape. The sound is flowing and tripping, and heavily influenced by the Beatles and Pink Floyd. The result is the interesting ride that is the band’s five song EP Kanye Westboro Baptist Church.
Let’s start with the obvious: Kanye Westboro Baptist Church may be one of the most amusing album titles to grace record stores this year. While the lure of a 1960’s influenced rock band wasn’t enough to pique my interest, the album title did, and I’m glad it’s allure convinced me to listen. The Bloakes sound like Oasis if they were true to their roots rather than trying to write hits. Vocalist Isak Smars reminds me of Liam Gallagher, with more bass in his tone. Many of the vocal melody lines could have shared space on an Oasis album easily. Where The Bloakes differ is in their trippy arrangements. Reverb soaked guitars swirl and echo hypnotically, and the underlying organ that thickens the mix take the listener right back to the days of free love and protest rock.
“The Bright Side” opens this collection with a laid back rocker that builds as it progresses, greatly due to the drumming of Arvid Engdahl, who not only keeps the beat, but builds and releases tension to control the flow of the song. “For A Better End” follows, and again finds Engdahl creating the mood, and allowing ample space for guitars and drums to create an atmosphere which cradles the vocals. “Tell Your Children” is lyrically a bit of a throwback to Jefferson Airplane’s hit “White Rabbit.” It's references to going down the rabbit hole, the mad hatter, and Alice bring to mind the classic hit. The chorus is punctuated by simple piano chording that adds depth, giving a grand sound to those sections of the song. “Moscow Ages” closes this release with the kind of proto-Indian sound that was pioneered by the Beatles’ George Harrison. Guitar and sitar sounds wrestle back and forth, creating a vibe that’s full of energy, building until its chaotic conclusion.
Overall, Kanye Westboro Baptist Church is a fun musical diversion. There is nothing else in the current music scene that sounds quite like what The Bloakes have created. Where this doesn’t work is the few sections that sound a bit too much like their influences. The opening sitar on “Moscow Ages” is nearly identical to that of a classic hit that most listeners will recognize immediately. The songs alternately come across as refreshingly original, or as pseudo-covers of 1960’s hits. Either way, they are well performed, and this album is, in a word, fun. The Bloakes manage to create a retro rock sound that goes beyond the realm of novelty. Their fresh take on a classic sound easily brings the listener in, then twists in unforeseen ways, providing a fresh perspective on a tried and true formula.
Reviewed by Jim 1340