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Blended Brew - Shove it Down Award winner

Blended Brew
Shove it Down
by Kira Schlechter at 14 May 2020, 4:45 AM

If the current resurgence of classic hard rock was happening in America, it might lack the energy and freshness of the resurgence that’s taking place in Europe – one that’s being pursued with great finesse by Copenhagen’s BLENDED BREW on their latest, and excellent, release, “Shove It Down.” The album comes after their 2015 debut “Hand Patrones” and the subsequent EP “Laughing at Your Feet” in 2016.

It starts with the hip-swinging ‘70s bounce of “Ancient Alien,” with its dirty drum and bass foundation punctuated by raw, gritty guitar and Lord Sebastian’s harmonica. The lyrics are kind of a mystery, but who cares – the music has plenty of swagger and balls and Jimmy’s voice is sexy and gravely and crooning and all that stuff you want from a singer in this style. He does a little call-and-response in the second verse, pitting his singing with his confident playing. “Stay in the Shadow” is rooted in bottom-heavy soul, funk, and blues. The killer riff that Lord Sebastian’s organ and Jimmy’s guitar bash out with help from the bass is irresistible – a break for the more thoughtful bridge, and then it’s back into that groove again. It’s all about not giving in, not shrinking away, living life – simple sentiments but delivered with panache.

“Woman I Need You” is notable for its little aural treats – the effect shading Jimmy’s vocal, the foreboding minor-key keyboard snippet as it leads into the chorus, the breakdown that’s just that vocal effect and the drums. And they’re so good at the money riff, the one that implants in your brain – not to mention someone could sing the ABCs to Lord Seb’s badass organ part and I’d be fine with it. It’s self-explanatory lyrically, but it’s delivered with a certain helplessness – “I am addicted,” Jimmy sings, but he doesn’t really care. It could be a drug reference and not a relationship one, too – it works both ways.

“Electrified Loser” shivers and shimmers with Jimmy’s guitar and Christoffer’s delicate little cymbals and snare before settling into a signature riff with guitar and organ. They cite DEEP PURPLE and AC/DC as influences, but they’re also like early BLACK CROWES before the psychedelia set in. It’s just a little ditty about making your life playing music (and aren’t we all “electrified losers”?), about “faking it to make it” until you can do what you want.

“Rival Cunt – Give Me Your Love” is darker, slower, almost more contemplative in a way. Dominated by bass in the verse, the guitar makes wee bits of commentary and the dainty keyboard makes everything all trippy and dreamy before it rips out in the chorus. The band excels in not only what they say musically, but what they leave unsaid as well, allowing the music to have space and air and using pauses and quiet spots for impact, tactics that are especially apparent and appreciated here.

It’s impossible to tire of the title track’s sinewy, hypnotic groove, and equally hard to resist more of that ear candy. The second verse is just slightly different melodically, adding vocal harmony for instance, and the chanted harmony section that plays on the chorus echoes ZEPPELIN (especially with Jimmy's voice in that “bring it back” part). As the band included in a note, this one is about “people being blindfolded by today's society and leaders” and that we “don’t question ourselves enough about what is right or wrong – instead we just follow along as it’s the most normal thing to do (which sadly it is).” The “shove it down” reference is like saying just ignore the truth, nothing to see here.

If the Streets Could Talk” has Jimmy crooning and almost whispering underneath another spectacular organ line (I would argue to bring up the volume on that part just a tad louder). It’s haunting and spooky and atmospheric before it gets all PURPLE on you. Christoffer’s rim fill is so great, so unexpected, and so judicious (he only does it once, in the first verse), and the little pauses in the solo section play so cleverly with the rhythm. This one is more a series of images rather than an actual story, but there are some lovely turns of phrase (like “whispering in the breeze of noise” and “A quote on the lamppost/We’re missing it all/Someone said it all before”).

“Run and Hide” is heavy and sinister, full of rich imagery. With just the two quick scenarios in the first verse (“I come from a place where the echo is loud/I come from a street of sirens” and then, “I hear shout and scream from a guy who’s clean/Cursing the streets of sirens”), you get the storyline, and the second verse is just as evocative. The chorus comes only after the verses and bridge here, so they’re not completely beholden to conventional structure. “Renegade” is all slithery and elastic, stringing together words that sound cool together and rhyme in fun ways, and that’s fine – the chorus, “Amused by the music, we’re the ace of space,” is just flat-out fun. The truly ‘70s disco-era bell-like keyboard part just makes it, and they give you another taste of its deliciousness in the second verse before the bridge.

I can’t say enough about the superb closer here. “Don’t Say No” might be “the piano break-up ballad,” but don’t think ‘80 cheese, even though it’s slightly reminiscent of the better GREAT WHITE tracks of that nature. This is much more like a torch song, just Jimmy’s voice and Lord Sebastian’s piano and a cello. The two instruments are warm and lyric at first, but get all pizzicato and insistent in the third verse. Even the chorus is atypical – it doesn’t get all big and melodramatic, but just stays at that same quiet level of intensity. Jimmy might belt it out a little in places, but it’s beautifully restrained and emotional.

Since this stuff never gets old, there’s always a place for new bands to take this classic rock template and breathe new life into it. BLENDED BREW has set the standard, thrown down the gauntlet, whatever cliche you choose, on this latest incarnation with “Shove It Down.”

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Ancient Alien
2. Stay in the Shadow
3. Woman I Need You
4. Electrified Loser
5. Rival Cunt – Give Me Your Love
6. Shove It Down
7. If the Streets Could Talk
8. Run and Hide
9. Renegade
10. Don’t Say No
Lineup:
Jimmy Mansson - Vocals, Guitar
Lord Sebastian Groset - Piano, Organ, Blues Harp
Lasse Mortensen - Bass
Christoffer Beck - Drums
Record Label: Mighty Music
     


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