Swagger and attitude is not something a band can fake. Sweden’s Blues Pills are the real deal. Their brilliantly titled third album, Holy Moly!, has some of the catchiest ear worm riffs heard in ages.
Add the fiery, soulful presence of Elin Larsson, exuding musical passion and power combined, and you’ve got an album that demands attention but doesn’t need to try to impress – it’s too cool for that.
The forthright Proud Woman opens on some feminist affirming vox-pop dialogue before a grooving beat with popping chords soon starts, as Larsson’s distinctive voice makes an impact. Backing vocals, drum rolls aplenty and a fuzz pedal effected guitar make for the first of many strong choruses. Low Road is a definite album highlight with a fast attack and brisk galloping boogie feel, synchronised walking riffs enhanced by a wah pedal filter opening up the guitar rhythm sounds. The vocals, of course, carry the song with pure attitude.
The blues rock onslaught continues in Dreaming My Life Away, a flurry of cool fuzz tones and percussive power, with funky chord bursts into a soaring chorus. On California Larsson demonstrates both her vocal power and range with conviction and sustain, adding some screaming notes, offered up judiciously against backing vocals. Anderson’s solo here is one of the most tasteful on the album with slow a blues feel and some near-country styled bending that fits the song perfectly.
Delving again into atmospherics, a delay and fuzz guitar soaked shuffling track unfolds within the catchy Rhythm in the Blood. A raspy vocals approach fits the feel as the guitar bubbles underneath before a quick solo is dealt out while the rhythm section hammers through. Dust is another album highlight, where the mixing skills of Andrew Scheps come to the fore. Deep reverb and a rolled back tonal mix fade into a brighter sound, giving the cymbals and tremolo guitar lines extra shimmer. The brooding vocals and direct lyrics, again bolstered by backing vocals, feed nicely into a guitar solo, intentionally restrained in the mix but no less expressive. A tasty keyboard line through a modulated filter effect similar to Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter makes for a very soulful piece of music indeed.
That same swaggering groove and great vocal placement continues with Kiss My Past Goodbye’s vintage rhythm and blues feel. Larsson’s voice benefits from backing vocals like a Clint Eastwood movie soundtrack, lyrics delivered with almost dismissive ease as the rhythm section keeps the vibe smooth and funky.
Blues Pills are adept at tackling a completely different musical approach, and Wish I’d Known is a quieter, introspective piece with clean guitars and floating vocals. Slow drums and bass soon follow the vocals as Larsson’s projection and power increases during this song of lament, with dirty rhythm guitar sounds and a full backing vocal chorus taking the track into gospel territory shortly before the fade.
Toggling a pickup selector and going into a marching rhythm figure, the band picks up the groove on Bye Bye Birdy, another slow building track that kicks in with an almost psychedelic pulse and rampant level of abandon. Song from a Mourning Dove stretches out with production that pushes in the full band as the song progresses. Guitar lines engage in a slow climb culminating in some nice harmony lines against backing vocals. An extended guitar led instrumental section makes the returning vocal parts that much more emotive as Larsson and Anderson play in unison. An enjoyable track to just take in, capturing everything going on.
After such a roller coaster ride, the final song starts with an initial duet between a slow, clean arpeggiated guitar line and searching vocals during the authentic Longest Lasting Friend. Added piano in the second verse fleshes out the sound a bit as Larsson pushes her vocal range effortlessly into higher octaves. It is a touching piece of music that shows how capable the song writing team of Larsson and Anderson have become, adding further musical variety to Blues Pills.
If this album is anything to go by, Blues Pills are looking to go to the next level. Holy Moly! adds significantly to their oeuvre and might sit nicely alongside your classic seventies vinyl collection. If you’re not into that format, don’t feel excluded as this is easily accessible for all fans of cool, groove filled blues rock. If you need a diversion from pummelling metal to cope with the ongoing horrors of this year, you can’t go wrong with the wonderful, soulful blues rock of Holy Moly!
Dreaming My Life Away
Rhythm in the Blood
Kiss My Past Goodbye
Wish I’d Known
Bye Bye Birdy
Song from a Mourning Dove
Longest Lasting Friend