Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls

by Lawrence Poole Rating:7 Release Date:2012-04-09

After reading a plethora of excitable, effusive live reviews of the Alabama quartet winning over hearts and minds in their droves in recent weeks, I pictured gaggles of journalists tailcoating it home practically foaming at the mouth to drown the retro-soul four-piece in myriad compliments. So I was a little peturbed when they were swiftly followed by a clutch of lukewarm write-ups for the debut LP, which followed.

Thankfully, Alabama Shakes' first offering, Boys & Girls, is better than some naysayers would have you believe. Utterly retro-soaked it maybe, but there is a freshness and vitality, which seaps through the stereo instantly. Lead bombastically by powerhouse frontwoman Brittany Howard, a howling ball of energy who catwalls and caresses in equal measure, the record should create a stir to rival their live prowess.

Bouncing across Brian Wilson-look-a-like Zac Cockrell's stellar basslines (Wilson, of course, was also a master of the instrument), my only real criticism of the record is it's a tad one-paced. Kick-starting with the ominpresent single 'Hold On', which oozes Altantic soul, it is swiftly followed appropriately by 'I Follow You', which if they see fit to release it, could quite easily be one of the cuts to soundtrack summer barbecues up and down the land.

'Hang Loose' and 'Rise to the Sun' continue on a similar thread, with the later harking back to the sort of late-night slices which soundtracked hip Britflicks back in the 1990s. 'Goin' to the Party' and 'Heartbreaker' takes things down a more sombre, reflective road. Unfortunately, due to the plodding title track and 'Be Mine', the album languishes there for too long, which I imagine caused some reviewers to hold back a star or two.

Thankfully, 'I Ain't the Same' and 'On Your Way' come to the rescue ending matters on a high note. So then, neither a stone cold classic or a turkey... But plenty to get your teeth into all the same.







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