Out getting high on the back porch
I sing to the empties and cigarette butts
And I know that the song is about you
And I’d sing to your face, but I’ve got no guts
Okay we’re all adults here, let’s get the obvious out-of-the-way so we can have a sensible grown-up discussion about Ladyhawk. There’s a nude chick on the cover. Yup, settle down there at the back! We’ve all seen it before. It’s nothing new. This is art, not titillation. I said ‘titillation’, not ‘titty elation!’. Right! I can’t believe how silly you’re all being about this, we’ll see how silly you think it is when I take your lunch breaks off you!
As I was saying you can tell its art rather than sleaze because said chick has a mask on and is dancing in a woodland clearing carefully furnished with significant objects, arty ones. Oh and copies of Black Mountain and Neil Young Trans, as well as the of-far-more-use-in-the-woods big box of Pilsner. The back cover photo has the band on it instead of the natural redhead from the front cover, in a shot that has been reversed for reasons best known to the band; one of whom sports a London Lords T-shirt. Yup, Canadians! I’m guessing this is what they get up to in the woods at the weekend, all of them probably. True story. Or maybe this is just how folk rolled way back in 2006.
For once this was accidental nudity rather than, my more usual planned variety. I heard of Ladyhawk, from Vancouver^, as being friends of and something akin to label mates Black Mountain, who I was rather partial to – in fact Amber Webber and Josh Wells both appear on the album. So imagine my blushes when I tore open the mailer, dear reader, before I realised it was art and therefore totally justified.
There are similarities here with Black Mountain’s back woods rock style, but there’s a bit more Neil Young running through these veins than the Sabbath, or Velvet Underground influences on Black Mountain. I really like their sound actually, we get some good plaintive man vocals and some unflashy but rather tasty twin guitar slinging. I can barely think of an isolated guitar solo on the LP but Ladyhawk beef their slightly alt-country tinged indie rock up with some proper six string muscle, which makes sure the blood pumps through the veins to keep it from coagulating; mostly.
For a case in point see my fave track ‘The Dugout’ a good spritely rocking stroll, a bit reminiscent to my ears of Buffalo Tom in their prime*. The singer pleading for a significant other to let him know how she feels ‘Turn your light on / Turn your light on me’, it’s wonderfully played and sung and there is a crackle of real emotion in the speakers, as well as a good minute of sparking, overdriven guitar coda. It’s a high-rotation number here on Fabulous 1537 FM: All Godzilla, No Filler.
I really like the production on Ladyhawk, they capture a great, warm sound – fuzzy enough to avoid being clinical, clear enough to avoid becoming sonic soup. In fact the whole first side of the album is pretty damn great, ‘Long ‘Til Morning’ (atmospheric, slightly spooked) and ‘Came In Brave’ (aggressive drunken self-loathing**), really rocking it up for me. Plus I can only award 1537 bonus points for the song title ‘My Old Jacknife’.
Trouble is, this is very much an album of two sides and they crammed all the good stuff on the first side. The playing is still really good, the sound hasn’t diminished, just the quality of the song writing. It all goes a bit Lemonheads in a couple of instances and I like the Lemonheads, but on their own records. If I had to pick one I’d plump for the closer, ‘New Joker’ which sidles up to grunge respectability but doesn’t stir the Cosmusiconaut in me.
So there we have it, one side of excellence and another side of, well might as well listen to the first side again-ness. They also win bonus points for being named after one of my favourite (at the time, but almost unwatchable now) movies.
PS – Not to be confused with Ladyhawke, New Zealand born songstress, whom I also like.
^Kelowna, BC to be precise.
*anyone else remember them? or was it just me?
**source of the opening lines here.