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Pale Lips - 'After Dark' Album Review


1. Some Sort Of Rock n’ Roll

2. I’m A Witch

3. Hanky Panky Franky

4. You’re A Doll

5. The Old Ghost Don’t Lie

6. All My Baby Brought Back Was The Blues

7. The Kids

8. Johnny

9. Hiding From The Moon

10. Show Me Another Way To Your Heart

11. Doo-Wop Showaddywaddy

12. Cosmic Love

Let’s pretend the last 42 years or so of music never happened. We are back in 1977 at a dive bar, and there are about 5 bands playing tonight. While 4 of the bands may be alright, they do not do enough to really capture your attention. Then the last band of the night comes on and that special moment happens at a show when everything else ceases to matter as the band unleashes one glorious song after another. The Pale Lips are that band. They channel that classic 70’s Power Pop chorus Punk sound that takes the riffs of Rock n' Roll originators like Chuck Berry and apply them to the principles of the Ramones and the Heartbreakers. These songs are going to stick in your brain like cotton candy does to your fingers.

Getting started with ‘Some Sort Of Rock n’ Roll’ sets the template with some initial ‘La, la, la’s’ before we hear about a dysfunctional family, shock therapy and a chorus that commands audience participation. The beat gets the foot moving with the guitar riff dancing all over the top of the beat to great effect. The Pale Lips pack many secret weapons with one of them being the sublime vocals of Jackie Blenkarn who is probably fronting Josie and the Pussycats in some other dimension. ‘I’m A Witch’ begins with the drums (Lynn Poulin) and bass (Jamie Radu, also backing vocals) providing the short intro before the guitar takes us through a touch of the Sonics put through a bubble gum blender. The screamed vocal fits like a glove, and I first thought I heard a reference to a kangaroo near the end. Turns out, it is a nod of the hat to one of their older songs ‘Jangaroo.’ Ilona Szabo’s guitar opens up the wonderful ‘Hanky Panky Franky’ which features an awesome chorus and divine backing vocals. Kids all over should be singing this song all summer long.

Current single and video ‘You’re A Doll’ was our first clue that this was going to be an awesome album. The keyboards add a quirky element to the music that takes the song to a whole other level. Blenkarn sings with a sassy attitude as she points out why this guy should be with her and not the other girl. The high note she hits at the end gets me every time. Changing tactics a bit, they channel the likes of the Ronettes with ‘That Old Ghost Don’t Lie’ adding different textures to their sound. This is one of the areas that really stands out with multiple listens of the album is how these songs all sound like the same band, but there is still plenty of variation in the songs across the album. Ending the first half of the album is the harmonica laced ‘All My Baby Brought Back Was The Blues,’ which opens with a clever double entendre.

Take a moment to catch your breath, have some water, and then flip it over for another 6 songs that you need in your life. ‘The Kids’ offers no let up as Poulin and Radu lay down another tight rhythm for this two minute bubblegum blast. There is some tasty saxophone added deep in the mix here which the band then cranks up on follow up song ‘Johnny.’ If you ever wondered what it might sound like if the Ramones covered ‘Exile On Main Street’ with a bubblegum Punk queen singing, this might answer that for you. The band then transition to the longest song on the album ‘Hiding From The Moon,’ which just barely cracks the 3 minute mark. As with all the songs here, the chorus is designed to make a huge impact between Blenharn’s sweetness here and the tasty backing vocals behind her.

‘Show Me Another Way To Your Heart’ finds the band simply laying down the 10th straight winner on the album. I have mentioned them several times but want to make sure I give props to Radu and Szabo for their work on the backing vocals as they serve as a perfect compliment to the lead vocals. The closing harmony on this one makes the hair on my arms raise. The vocals from the three continue to show how perfectly they fit with ‘Doo-Wop Showaddywaddy’ plastering a smile on my face with the hook as sticky as maple syrup. Closer ‘Cosmic Love’ closes the album on another great note with a huge poppy hook grabbed from the 60’s and laced with adrenaline.

Pale Lips deliver 12 winners here and have made an album that begs to be played again and again. Trust me, it has been on repeat now for more times than I care to admit. This already feels like a special album that is going to take up residency for large chunks of my 2019 and beyond. Get some Pale Lips in your life. You will not be sorry.

‘After Dark’ is available now so get to it -

Review - Gerald Stansbury

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