Get drunk off Ladyhawk’s Shots
Alcohol consumption is a big part of the rock and roll myth. Since the first power chords were handed down from the Viking gods of Valhalla, any rock star worth his or her salt has been seen as an insatiable machine fueled by grain alcohol and PBR.
Bands like The Rolling Stones, The Who and Van Halen have been leading this party-hard charge for years. Even newer acts like The Hold Steady and The Fratellis have been pushing a “live hard and forget tomorrow” mantra that is as much a part of rock and roll as the guitar solo or the cowbell.
While Ladyhawk, a rock band from Vancouver that sounds like it should be from someplace in the Bible Belt, do embody alcoholism as much as its classic rock forefathers, theirs is a view not from the giltz of the beer goggles but from the bloodshot eyes of a Sunday morning hangover.
Before even getting into the songs on Shots, the band’s second full length for Jagjaguwar records, the tone of the record must be discussed. If there is a better representation of a hangover than Shots, I haven’t heard it.
The album is regret personified. From the lazy, shambling feel of the guitar solos to the strained delivery of the lyrics, one can almost see the band, eyes puffy from lack of sleep, playing its Neil Young-influenced rock, remembering the jocularity from the night before, but feeling only disappointment and damage. No band has nailed the feeling of a hangover better than Ladyhawk on this record.
“I Don’t Always Know What You’re Saying” opens the album on a high note, despite the confused and angry tone of the song. Lead singer Duffy Driediger’s voice sounds warn and strained, as if he is at the end of his rope, long trying to grasp something that has eluded him to the point of desperate frustration. Equally expressive is the guitar work of lead axe-man Darcy Hancock, who doesn’t reinvent the solo, but gives it a new depth; he says as much with the guitar as Driediger says with his world-weary voice.
While “I Don’t Know” is a track fueled by smoldering anger and incomprehension, “(I’ll Be Your) Ashtray” is a slow march dripping with apologetic revelations that come one day too late. A sad, loose jam of a track, the vocals and the guitar intertwine once again so that both become reflections of the same image; the portrait of a person who knows it’s too late to be forgiven but is too stubborn to let go.
These two tracks serve as the obvious standouts of the record, and the rest of the tracks work off the template. Sure, Shots only has those two tracks (save the 10 minute jam track “Ghost Blues” that closes out the album), but they are done well enough that the similarity can be overlooked.
Lyrically, nothing stands out other than a few key phrases and catchy turns (“I know there’s no such thing as endless love /only a joke told in very poor taste/that somehow keeps cracking me up”), and the dark tone of the album might wear on some people, since Shots rarely finds the silver lining. There is joy in everything, even hangovers, but there isn’t much to be found here.
My biggest gripe is in the length of the record. At nine songs long and only 30 minutes after removing the 10-minute album-ending jam, people might be hesitant to plunk down their hardearned dollars on this release. A few more tracks would have been nice, maybe something off of the group’s digital/vinyl-only EP Fight for Anarchy or a re-released track from its selftitled album.
Still, short run time and similarity aside, Shots is a solid record from an up-and-coming rock band that dares to be the sobering yang to the non-stop partying of rock’s yin. With yet another solid release under its belt, Ladyhawk is a band to keep an eye on. And, unlike its namesake, listeners can take down Shots over and over again without having to worship the porcelain god at the end of the night.
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