Album Reviews

Black Daniel – Hard Times On The Way

(Pieces Of Eight) UK release date: 9 July 2007

Velvet Underground riffs? Check.

Iggy And The Stooges garage sensibilities? Check.

Lo-fi, homemade fuzzy, demo-style production? Check.

A name that sounds a bit like the lardy bloke out of the Pixies? Check

A bit of rapping chucked over the top here and there to make it sound modern and relevant and not just a rehashed compilation of past worthiness? Check.

Chuck it into a mixing deck, twiddle a few knobs and guess what comes out the other end? Yep, you’ve guessed it: Black Daniel.

Well done, you’ve just passed indie band 101.

Albums such as this are annoying rather than actually offensive. Of course anyone with any sense would rather listen to this than the new James Blunt or Joss Stone but don’t you feel rather cheated at the same time? There’s nothing new in here at all, just some well-chosen but ultimately nicked ideas put together in a somewhat clever way.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Black Daniel are British DJ brothers LD and LE May, along with US booker/promoter Craig Louis Higgins Jr. In a lot of ways, they’re doing what DJs and bookers do best: filling the soundsystem with the best the music scene has to offer – they’re just bypassing the songwriters/performers and making it up themselves instead, but they’re not as good at that as they are at deciding what to choose in the first place.

The result isn’t unpleasant on the ears, and it improves significantly with repeated listens. At times classic garage punk, at times dirty electro funk, at times owing debts to everyone from The Doors to The Velvet Underground. Although thinking about it that’s not too wide a range at all, is it?

There are moments when Hard Times On The Way lifts itself above this: the semi-spoken-word Information is worth a special mention (though not without slapping its wrists for tipping just too far the wrong side of homage towards The Gift), the rap-tinged title track stands out and on Million Holes they even creep close to deserving comparison with Star Club-era Beatles. But something’s missing.

It takes a while to put your finger on exactly what that something is, but in the end the realisation inevitability seeps home that it’s originality. This is garage indie by numbers, and there’s nothing big or clever about the rubbish production values that make it sound as if it’s been recorded off the radio onto a Tandy cassette. Especially when the people involved should know better.

Higgins and the Mays obviously have good taste. You can’t fault the source material they’re drawing from but ultimately, a club night where they spun the originals would be so much more satisfying.

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