The Delta Riggs – Hex.Lover.Killer. album review

Now this is a weird case. If I was asked to sum up what the Delta Riggs did, I’d probably put them on the bluesier side of the garage rock revival. If I were to tell you what I thought the Delta Riggs were best at, I’d say “every time they try something besides bluesy garage rock revival.” This might be the only band I’ve ever heard who might be better with their diversions than with their main sound.

See, they kind of hit the peak as far as that sort of thing goes with “America,” which is a pretty kick-ass song, if you ask me. The melody is pretty top-notch, the retro organ sounds awesome, I love the surprise horns and it’s got a fun, driving beat. They make that basic formula work elsewhere, too: “Rah, Rah Radio” is all sorts of fun (mostly because they up the tempo and upping the tempo works this band wonders), but it’s hard for me to get behind something like “Perfume and Lace,” “Stars,” or “Street Signs and Brake Lights.” It all just sounds much too standard-issue for this kind of thing, because unless you write a song as great as “America,” it’s hard to really distinguish yourself from the pack.

Luckily, the Delta Riggs like to move around a lot. So they’ll give you, say, some sinister cabaret-flavored stuff with “Naked” or a solid piano pop number with “Better,” or maybe they’ll slowly build to retro garage hedonism with the aptly titled “Something Creeping,” or even throw some jazzy chords into the strutting instrumental “Save it ‘til the Morning,” and it’ll sound great! It certainly establishes this record as one with personality, but the band also sounds more confident working outside of garage rock than they do inside it. This is why “Fiend,” despite starting off as generically as they come, takes a turn for the better when it slips into the psychedelia meets free jazz coda, why the  surprisingly piano-driven ending of “Anybody Home” is much more fun than “Anybody Home” itself, and why the psychedelic touches on “Scratch Flower” are so welcome.

So when they’re interestingly off-kilter, the Delta Riggs will definitely deliver the goods. But when they do garage rock, which looks to me like their primary genre, they fail to really distinguish themselves from the pack. The White Stripes set themselves apart with blues, folk, and wild experiments; the Strokes by condensing Television’s sprawling guitar jams and giving them Motown basslines; the Dirtbombs by adding a little soul to their garage rock. If the Delta Riggs want to do the same, I’d advise them to end more of their songs with psychedelic freakouts or piano codas. But hey, it’s a debut. There’s a lot of room for growth here.

By Christopher William Schahfer

An English major from Detroit who's been writing about music for about ten years now. It's good stuff, I'm tellin' ya - great way to organize my opinions and thoughts and, more importantly, get to the bottom of why I think the way I do.

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