I’ve compared several bands to contemporary blues-rockers The Black Keys in the past, but I don’t think that comparison has ever been more apt than now. The Mountain Man Band is a blues-rock two-piece from Dublin, and Killer Wails appears to be their first album, and it is an inarguably tight debut, even if it may seem a bit familiar.
The duo throw the listener right into their sound with opener “Boa Constrictor,” a crunchy rock track that is perfect in its simplicity. Nothing too crazy or technical in any of the playing, but it packs a punch with a really fun guitar solo and (maybe my favorite part of the song) some idiosyncratic and dissonant ambiance that appears about halfway through the track, also accomplished with guitar. It grabs the listener and holds them there for the rest of the song.
Next comes the bluesier “Bang Bang;” this song and its predecessor both sound like they belong on Rubber Soul, though that isn’t to say the song isn’t good. “Bang Bang” is led by a classic blues guitar riff and some basic but attention-grabbing drums (largely based around the cymbals), and has a great chorus that I don’t think The Black Keys would ever write, sounding closer to somewhere between Butthole Surfers and Stone Temple Pilots.
“Shot My Gun (Acoustic)” is the third song on the album, and it’s a little finger-picked guitar piece. “Shot My Gun” feels a little out of place in context of the rest of the songs here, and even at just under 3 minutes long, seems to drag a bit for me, likely due to its repetitiveness. “I Swore,” however, is the perfect song to grab my attention back; it’s a fast blues song that’s full of charm, mostly carried by Declan Keane’s vocal improvisations that recalled the old-school blues of the 50’s and 60’s.
“Play That Song” is a more straightforward, stompy, fun blues song. I wasn’t in love with it, but I think that it’s by far the most accessible and radio-friendly song of the five, though the section at 2:25 I am in love with. It’s this song that I realize for an album called Killer Wails, there has been zero yelling. Keane seems to specialize in a more mellow delivery. For all of the discussion of wildness on their website (and name), I wish the vocals were sung in a more out-there way, it would add a new dimension to their sound.
The Mountain Man Band shows a lot of promise, carrying with them much technical prowess and charm, but blend in just a little too much with the herd. The moments that really leapt out at me throughout the album were the ones that strayed from the blues-rock template, and I would love to hear those sounds a little more often.
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