Blackstrap - Steal My Horses and Run (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Steal My Horses and Run (2008)

Tee Pee

It's so disappointing to want to like an album more than you are able to. Sweden's Blackstrap has all the right influences: distortion-heavy `80s pop like Jesus and Mary Chain, loud layered early `90s shoegaze like My Bloody Valentine, straight-up rock 'n' roll like late `60s Stooges or 90s-00s Spiritualized -- but something isn't quite hitting where it should be.

Most songs layer heavy organ parts behind loud simple guitar riffs, clean poppy melodies and energetic drums. Sporting both male and female vocal leads and solid production, all the individual instruments come together to create a near ambient wave of sound delivered by a band playing fast and hard. The best example of this would be the radio-ready "Lay Down Low," which starts with a wall of harmony and melody pouring over an over-simple drum loop, only to have it all drop out, letting the guitars take over for some truly rock 'n' roll riffing that the Rolling Stones would be proud of. Best executed is track two, "Rough Padade," which features some of the strongest guitar lines and interesting chord progressions while exploring the atmospheric ambiance that can be generated even with the most rock 'n' roll guitar licks out there.

The band is at its best when they let their natural instincts take over. The most exciting part of the songs are when the guitars take over and power through organ and over the bass and drums. Mid-album slow songs "Too Far Gone" and "The Open Road" develop a more complex melody line, something the first few songs lack, before building to the pearl of the album "The Bitter, The Sweet." Built on solid guitar riffs and catchy pop melodies, it's a song that shows the sheer promise this band has to be great.

The acoustic based "Still Sore" and "I Burned Your Town" offer more depth and basic songwriting skills that rely on traditional chord progressions. But the shoegaze-heavy "The Repulsion" and "Steal My Horses" feel washed out. And that's my biggest complaint with the album: After many listens through, it's hard to really have any melodies caught in my head. And if you're a band that takes its influence from alternative music with a pop sensibility, you better be able to develop your pop sensibility.

Granted, if this were cut down to an EP featuring "Rough Parade," "Lay Down Low," "The Bitter, The Sweet," "Still Sore" and "I Burned Your Town," I might have trouble getting it out of my CD player. As a full-length album, however, it falls short in spots where I'd rather it didn't.