A Little Reminder Of The Band:
Blacktop Mojo have just released their fourth and on this occasion self-titled album. The band is still comprised of Matt James on vocals, guitarists Ryan Kiefer and Chuck Wepfer, bassist Matt Curtis and last but by no means least drummer Nathan Gillis. The band was formed back in 2012 by Matt and Nathan. They play a mix of classic rock which is southern tinged with grunge leanings. Singer Matt has a fabulous set of pipes on him and at times reminds me of late great Soundgarden man Chris Cornell in places. The band knows how to groove, write solid and often very catchy songs and are definitely a band that could fill a rock and metal dance floor. This album features 12 songs that seem a bit more bluesy than previous outings whilst containing the elements previously mentioned. This is music that has soul! They are not afraid to pull out the acoustic guitar on several songs adding even more melody to their album.
Huge Choruses, Dark Humour:
Not only is the music old school but so is the running length at around 44 minutes. There is no wastage, quality over quantity. Opener “Wicked Woman” kicks things off nicely with the album version of the song (see video version via link at the foot of the page) having an introductory piece with a mad sounding woman offering a sacrifice to the gods so as to live forever (is she possibly a witch?) with some discordant noisy guitar in the background until the groove comes in like a charging rhino. This will move you! Like many of their songs, it features a huge chorus to get your teeth into and a surrounding musical motif that will get the foot-stomping and the headbanging. The following song is an absolute hoot. Called “Bed Tundy” (you can guess who they are really talking about of course), there is some lovely and playful wordplay that shows a slightly dark sense of humour from the band. Expressions such as “nefarious activities… felonious proclivities… crystal clear lucidity” and my favourite line “my friendly smile keeps the world outside oblivious” sung with great expression raise a smile even though this is about a serial killer. The drop-down allows the bass to shine through more which is always pleasing. The “aaahhhhs” around the chorus should work nicely with a crowd joining in. With a grinding riff and a heavy groove, this is like a funky version of a Badmotorfinger era Soundgarden song!
They do a mean southern rock vibe, but then again it is natural with them coming from Texas and a couple of songs do remind me of Black Stone Cherry. I mean the very best of what BSC do. Both “Latex” and “Rewind” have that southern rock thing with the former utilizing acoustic elements and at the start whispered more restrained vocals. Lyrically it isn’t as kinky as the title suggests as he sings about the mask getting sweaty, it is more about being two-faced, one being the real person and the other the face put on to fool folks. Musically it switches between light and heavy and I love the intro to the guitar solo with its descending guitar slide followed by a crash of the drums which even though is only a few seconds long adds so much to the song! The latter of the two has quite an incessant riff at the start with Matt‘s voice upfront and centre. Slowly but surely the drumbeat gets louder as well as the bass fully leading into a stadium rocker of a song.
Lighter Acoustic Side:
“Jealousy” is where the album turns a little with more acoustic moments. It also means that the more gentle and reflective vocals of Matt can shine through. He can howl and scream with the best of them but can also sing your child to sleep! The chorus is heavier and more in your face but the verses are more restrained. Lyrically there is a line referring to “drinking poison” which of course “jealousy” is as it kills a relationship slowly and painfully. Lighters in the air stuff. This is followed by a short piece called “Make Believe (Interlude)“. Again acoustic guitar, sort of Spanish Flamenco in style. It is quite haunting and beautiful. These guys can turn their hand nicely to a number of styles whilst still being recognizable as to who they are.
“Darlin’ I Won’t Tell” is another acoustic-led number that soon heavies up into a huge raucous ballad. He asks his woman to “tell me the truth now honey, I promise I won’t tell“, but I am not sure if that is due to her telling lies a lot, or perhaps she is hiding something from her past that is dragging her down and he wants to know and share her pain or burden. I go for the latter. The chorus is an absolute monster on this. A ballad with balls, powerful yet tender. Great song. “Do It For The Money” has a nice harmony vocal opening, then the riff comes in leading into an ass-shaking rock n roll song. The chorus is to die for leading to the punch line asking “do you do it for the love or do you do it for the money?” It is quite a funky little number with some nice vocal harmonies. It sounds like there are some female singers in the background, but it could be that some of the guys in the band can sing quite high.
Light And Heavy Songs:
They go more country on “Hold Me Down” with slide guitar and his voice sounding even more southern than normal (at least to my ears). The chorus is another lighter/mobile in-air moment and the guitar solos (as they tend to be here) are short but tasteful and seem to be appropriate to the song they are playing for. This song reminds me a little of a band from a number of years ago called The Throbs especially in the delivery mixed with a touch of The Black Crowes. This is a bit of a stand-out in my view and that is no disrespect to what comes before or after. “Cough” is possibly a Covid song, or at least being used as inspiration or even a metaphor for a relationship going awry as he asks “if I get sick will you still be my friend?”. This is hard rocking grunge similar in mood to Alice In Chains. Despite sounding dark there still seems an element of hope in there.
Grunge, Blues And Psychedelia:
The last two songs are very different from each other with “Stratus Melancholia” being very Alice In Chains but with perhaps a more Chris Cornell style vocal. In the midsection, he sounds so anguished as he cries out “I beg the darkness, let me breathe” which is followed by a howl of “YEAH!” The music is dark and quiet sounding through the section and adds to the mood of that point. Bringing up the rear is “Tail Lights” which has slide guitar through it and has an element of the Beatles as well. It also reminded me a bit of the music of the Scottish band King King being quite bluesy and soulful. The storytelling here is very good. The vocal again is spot on with him slightly raising his pitch and power as he sings “I hate to be alone…baby please don’t go… I reach for you and you’re not there… you promised you’d be there forever” as he goes into the chorus about seeing her taillights as she leaves. This also features a very touching guitar solo.
This is a band whose influences are easily spotted, but the thing is they do it all so well, writing very poignant and at times clever songs with strong musicianship so much so they do stand out from the crowd. The word for me is quality. Quality singing, playing and writing. This band should be huge and hopefully, they will be. My fingers are crossed that one day they might play my home country of Scotland as I imagine live these guys will be the bee’s knees. In the meantime at least I have (and we have) some excellent albums from them which absolutely includes this one.
Album is out NOW!