Detroit blues rockers emerge from Jack White's shadow to find avoice of their own....
The Soledad Brothers have long been blighted by two of their biggest strengths – Jack White and former MC5 manager and white panthers founder, John Sinclair.
Their closeness to White has hindered as much as it has helped. Everything they have done has been caught under his huge shadow; their successes were down to his guiding hand, their failures were their own.
It has meant they have been pitched as just another bunch of Detroit proto-blues men getting a leg-up from loyal Uncle Jack. But that’s way wide of the mark.
In reality, he was their protege who they taught to play slide guitar. They let him cut his production teeth on their early singles. They put his face on the sleeve of their first, self-titled, album – albeit blindfolded sucking on the barrel of a gun.
But pretty soon, the light from his star outshone theirs. And they’ve struggled to emerge from his shadow.
The endorsement of Sinclair has also clouded things. Sinclair provided the band with a logo and sharpened their revolutionary aesthetic – he wrote sleeve notes for their debut congratulating them on keeping the flame of revolution burning – but all this has also taken focus from the tunes.
On their previous two studio albums they tried to re-write ‘Exile On Main Street’ – to make a amphetamine-charged primitive rock and blues record; unarguably modern but still sounding 30 years old. At times especially on ‘Prodigal Stones Blues’ from ‘Steal Your Soul And Dare Your Spirit To Move’ and ‘Handle Song’ on their self-titled debut they succeeded, but elsewhere they threw so many other bits from their favourite stars that it became difficult to work out where the tributes to John Lee Hooker, Mick and Keef and RL Burnside ended and the real sound of The Soledad Brothers began.
On ‘Voice Of Treason’, their influences remain but The Soledad Brothers sound like they have worked out how to be proper band, not just a finely turned tribute act with a couple of heavyweight backers.
Take ‘Cage That Tiger’, a song about fucking as much as a call to arms. It’s a glorious piece of [a]Velvet Underground[/a]
rock infused with some Brill Building pop twists. It transcends its influences to forge a new sound that’s unmistakably The Soledad Brothers.
Exactly the same can be said of the glammed up rockabilly and modern boogie woogie of ‘Lowdown Streamline’ or the ghostly, eerie, beautiful ‘Lorali’ or The Doors pastiche on ‘Ain’t It Funny’ that mutates into Booker T And MGs’ ‘Green Onions’. They borrow from everywhere but because The Soledad Brothers have developed the edge that gives the real deal their hips and their spurs, it couldn’t be anyone except The Soledad Brothers.
Of course, a political agenda remains. The album title itself is in response to the Patriot Act passed in the aftermath of 9/11. And like[a][/a]’s forthcoming ‘Take Them On, On Your Own’ it reflects the current American climate. But it’s not a driving force.
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Instead, ‘Voice Of Treason’ is the sound of a band hitting their stride, finding their voice and raising hell. It’s a rush hearing them hit paydirt and finding the verve to be as good as they have long threatened.
Forget Jack and his sore finger. Right now this frazzled trio are the true sound of Detroit – confident, smart and absolutely essential.