Black Wine - Black Wine (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Black Wine

Black Wine (2009)

Don Giovanni

Black Wine is what you get what when you combine two parts Hunchback and one part Ergs!. The three members of this act derive from said defunct bands, but you will not get pop-punk with hoarse delivery and rough edges--nor will you get it in geeky, articulate doses. Back when, Black Wine promised "a mix of alternative and punk reminiscent of the early days of SST and Sub Pop." Does their self-titled LP deliver on that?

In some ways, sure. There's a brittle coarseness to their sound that doesn't cast the band in the grunge light so much as it does just show a dirty, gritty recording. That much is immediately apparent in the opening title/band track, a burly instrumental that bridges the gap between mean riffs that sound like the restrained opening to any scrappy '80s hardcore song and just a generally more playful jam sesh. When Jeff Schroeck's familiar vocals kick in "Strange, Amazing," you get a direct impression of the band's pop sensibilities, which seem a likely nod to that of primary influence, Dinosaur Jr.

The mood turns somewhat dour as the record progresses to "Haunted," but it only allows the LP to show off more than one face. This particular track might sound nice out of context at certain points ("I like the way you walk / I like the way you talk"), but intentional or not it's just sort of creepy by its end ("I never want you to go back home"). It also weaves in some elder rock'n'roll/punk sounds, like something circa '77.

The lack of dynamics seems a little more apparent in the second half, where wider gaps in the chugging riffs and greater highs would be welcomed. The song that comes just before this half, "Couch Critics," is a blueprint by which the band should follow to some extent--it's easily Black Wine's most memorable track. Schroek is raw and unhinged throughout, howling out a part of the "chorus" that seems to hit home hard for him: "I'm sick of insensitive remarks!". Miranda Taylor sings on a few songs as well, but her contributions don't quite feel completely realized and exuberant until they're meshed with the male vocals and more spiraling, sprawling guitar tones of closer "Belong," the album's most romantic and rewarding segment.

The debut from Black Wine is otherwise only problematic in an often vague and undefinable way. But what's already there is an occasionally enjoyable and undeniably concise effort.

Couch Critics
Broken Arm Bear
Chateau of Ghosts