Home is a Heartache by The PicturebooksRelease date: March 10, 2017
Label: Another Century Records
Since the success of the White Stripes, the many bands who have followed in their footsteps have brought successful nuanced flourishes to the duo table – Black Keys, Royal Blood, Japanoids, Shovels and Rope, The Kills, to name but a few. It has allowed a freedom to strip-down a sound, but at the same time produce something earthily powerful, and for bands like the afore-mentioned White Stripes, and Black Keys, they have dipped into the blues to create a re-energised and revitalised bluesy template. German bikers The Picturebooks continue along this blues highway by channelling into a swampy, primal, bluesy inspired howl and holler.
Quite a spectacle live Flyn Claus Grabke’s use of vintage guitars partnered by Phillip Mirtschink thumping his cymbal-less drum kit with the aid of heavy duty felt beaters, visually continues a slight variation on the duo band concept. Out of the previous duo led artists The Picturebooks are closer akin to the Black Keys, plus throw in a healthy dose of early Seasick Steve raw guitar ensures they are developing carving out their own little niche.
Home is a Heartache is their third album and is their Another Century Record label debut. It is the result of coming off the constant touring routine and straight into their garage to write and record. Transferring a band’s live sound successfully onto a recording can be a tricky proposition. From the opening refrain of guitar on the short opener ‘Seen These Days’ they have maintained that reverb rawness. The drums however, are not as powerfully forthcoming as they were in my sole live The Picturebooks experience when they supported Le Butcherettes on tour last year. But they still add density in the laying out of their overall sound.
But what The Picturebooks do possess is distilling that primal blues howl with catchy melodic bluesy rock hooks. Prime example is ‘I Need That Oooh’ as it marries a punchy rhythm, singalong chorus and nifty slide guitar. While ‘Zero Fucks Given’ should rouse any audience slumber to participate in full heartedly. The band are not afraid to delve into the whoah whoah, ooh ooh, cannon to gain attention and no doubt, the real purpose, is to enhance crowd participation in the live setting. ‘Cactus’ takes full advantage of this along with a metallic percussion sound and rhythm which should get any rock ‘n’ roll party started.
Although the album has a couple of softer toned offerings, which aims to provide depth and variety, best exemplified on the slow building groove of the title track, the pair are at their best when they raise the volume. With the Seasick Stevie esque ‘Get Gone’, and the pumped-up adrenalin charge of ‘Wardance’ both expect to be sure fire set-list additions.
At the afore-mentioned The Picturebooks live experience at Camden’s Our Black Heart they aired ‘Bad Habits Die Hard’ which stood out in glorious swampy grandeur, but while still a noticeable bruiser it is rivalled, in my opinion, and bettered by other stronger songs, which shows this album is a trajectory step in the right direction and should mean their live set will be supplemented by a greater array of quality rock belters.