The song titles pretty much tell you all you need to know about The Black Halos:
- BSF (Blood Sucking Freak)
- Shooting Stars
- Fucked From The Start
- No Chance Nancy
- Fluffy Kittens
Here we go again, staggering down the grimmest grimiest streets in search of a fix tonight, no angel-headed hipsters round these parts just the fluttering ghosts of a thousand runaway junkie girl suicides in a hundred crime scene alleyways. You know the turf, you can smell where Hanoi/Dolls/Dead Boys/Guns/Heartbreakers/LOTNC* marked it with their man scent. The turf in this case being Vancouver, 1999.
Produced by Jack Endino and distributed by Sub Pop (they signed to them for their next couple of releases), we get a jaunt down the rockier side of the punk boulevard here, the musicianship is good, solid, melodic and brisk. Everyone involved has a mop of untidy black hair, proper cheekbones and the singer was called Billy Hopeless** – I signed up.
What we get never won any prizes for originality, but for spirit? it came close. Opener ‘Shooting Star’ is Hanoi Rocks x8, or maybe just New York Dolls squared and two-thirds through it even has a breakdown section redolent of The Cult. All the while Mr Hopeless crows about him/someone else having a life like a shooting star. I can barely make out a word of ‘Retro World’, Mr Hopeless has a somewhat eccentric vocal style his voice just drips with cynicism, sin and strange hungers, he sounds like he’s been living on cheap wine, depravity and fries since 1979 – what he’s not so great on is clarity. Ah well, guess I’ll just have to roll with it and snack on my side order of sin.
Unfortunately, this also sets a certain built-in obsolescence into play. I like to vicariously live the life of a street-sussed low-life narconaut, from the comfort of my luxurious sofa as much as the next man but I need a little more variation in my brew. In fact listening to both sides of The Black Halos is a bit like being trapped in a lift with a very noisy real street-sussed low-life narconaut – not so much fun in reality and the smell gets to you after a while. I do particularly like ‘Sad Boy’ and its lament for lost lives (etc. etc.) in the same vein as (see what I did there) as ‘Lonely Planet Boy’ and it is a welcome change of pace and the brilliantly titled ‘Fucked From The Start’ does exactly what you’d imagine it doing, with an extra pungent stench.
Unfortunately The Black Halos lose the bonus 1537 points they picked up for wanton and gratuitous swearing for a petty grievance of mine. I hate it when you buy an LP and the inserts are just CD-sized, that’s lazy I’m afraid. We pay more for vinyl, one of the few perks we get is nice big pictures, indulge us. I really can’t read the small print here:
Anyway, spoilt grumblings aside, The Black Halos is a good rock punk album and it does fit a certain mood. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a hundred crime scene alleyways to prowl.
P.S – I made the last two song-titles up, reckon I nailed ’em good.
*Lords of the New Church, I was being deliberately obscure to show exactly how hip I am.
**captain Google tells me that Mr Hopeless had a spinal tap, sorry Spinal Tap, in 2008 – that’s the coolest major spinal surgical procedure I can think of off-hand.