The Donkeys - Ride The Black Wave

by Nathan Fidler Rating:8 Release Date:2014-06-03

Slogging away for over a decade, The Donkeys might have felt hard done by in their lack of success, but their fourth album, Ride the Black Wave, could be about to set that right. The Californian four-piece have crafted a laid-back, hazy album which recalls the sounds of the 60s and 70s with a dash of modern Americana thrown in.

‘Sunny Daze’ has to be one of the best examples of a title summing up the music. With its hypnotic xylophone and restless lyrics (“Should I stay in California or should I move to France?” - a typical mind-wandering thought from this band's head).

Across the album, they dabble with different beach-friendly sounds including surf guitars on ‘The Manx’ and a sitar on ‘Imperial Beach’. But it’s not just interesting from an muso view; ‘Scissor Me Cigs’ also shows they’ve got the knack for a tune no matter how laid-back they are. The frittering drums are reminiscent of the Bright Eyes album Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, while the lyrics hold their own charm: “Scissor me cigs/ What records you dig/ You could start a forest fire with just a couple of twigs”.

Title track ‘Ride the Black Wave’ makes you yearn for the days when the counterculture music of Crosby, Stills & Nash was all the rage. The track features its own message of strength through individualism, urging you to do your own thing and “just ride the black wave”.

‘Brown Eyed Lady’ is the only disappointment and is where the album might lose a listener's attention. The intention is well-meaning but comes out like a mongrel howling at the moon in a dirty alleyway. ‘Shines’ ends the album in an uplifting fashion, dying to be played on a sunny road trip, but possibly betrays the more versatile and thoughtful style heard earlier on.

It’s always hard to say when a band will really hit it big, and even critical acclaim doesn’t always equate to hard success, but for now we should be happy to keep this band to ourselves and smarmily say “I told you that album was going to be big for them” if it does come good.

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