Every decade has a band whose sound is so influential that they define that decade’s musical sound. In this decade, that band is arguably The Black Keys. Like many groups in the history of rock n’ roll, The Black Keys have spawned their fair share of imitators.
Recently, that group has been a band from Calgary, AB called Crooked Spies. While many people would be quick to write off this group as mere copycats, you have to read between the lines to notice the uniqueness of these Canadian house rockers.For one, they’re a quartet made up of two brothers, Dylan Evanik and Steven Evanik, who both share guitar and vocal duties. In the band’s rhythm section, Aaron Samson holds things down on bass while Luke Carson supplies the backbeat on drums.
Another thing separating Crooked Spies from The Black Keys is their unusual lyrics and themes on their debut album Mata Hari their first full length record which the band released independently in mid April of this year.Most would agree that The Black Keys are great musicians, but their lyrics aren’t really anything to write home about. You’ll probably never hear the words…“You know, the lyrics in “Gold On The Ceiling” really spoke to me.”
If there’s one thing Crooked Spies do right, it’s their lyrics, even if it does come across as a muddled concept album. The Strokes influenced track “Mata Hari” makes reference to the Dutch dancer who was accused by the allies of spying for
Germany during WWI and executed by firing squad. A publicity shot of her appears on the album cover of this record.
Two more tracks on the album stick with that same theme with songs like “Brother” talking about the desperation that Hari must’ve felt while on trial and “Doomsday Blues” talking about the chaos and destruction of the Great War over a
12 bar chord progression.
This album is a landmark as being one of the rare times music has made reference to the Great War since the music video for Metallica’s “One” went into rotation on MTV in 1988 using footage from the 1970s anti-war film, “Johnny Got
His Gun.” If Quentin Tarantino ever wants to make a movie about Mata Hara, he should definitely get these guys to record the soundtrack.
It’s a shame that Crooked Spies didn’t stick with the WWI theme throughout the whole record. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any other decent tracks.“High Tide” is a punky, garage rock song that commands the listener’s attention with a nice slide guitar solo. The Bo Diddley beat of “Man on Fire” sounds like it would be right at home in a beer commercial during the Superbowl.
My personal favorite track on this record is “Where You’ll Go.” It’s a nice smooth, psychedelic song with a mellow vibe that can really help you carry on. While this album isn’t exactly perfect, it is quite an ambitious first effort and it’s easy to see why some Canadian radio stations have been giving it airplay. Audiences should react warmly at Crooked Spies live gigs on their upcoming tour and will definitely be as eager as I am to hear more from the band in the future.
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