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Friday, October 5, 2007

Everyone Loves the Blakes; I Don’t Really Like the Blakes

posted by on October 5 at 10:00 AM

A lot of people seem to love the Blakes. KEXP loves ‘em. Light in the Attic loves ‘em. All the people that go to their shows and dance and drink and sing along love them, but I just don’t like the Blakes. Here’s my CD review of their new full-length, it’ll explain everything:


The Blakes
(Light in the Attic)

The Blakes’ new full-length starts out strong: A few fuzzy plucks on a guitar bleed into a sea of distortion, a steady shaker and a deep bass line dance together to make a simple but sexy beat, and the singer snarls complaints about loving an irresistible but impossible woman.

It’s catchy, but it’s been done. And just as the Blakes seem to hate to love the woman in the opening track “Two Times,” I hate to love the Blakes.

The trio has been a blip on Seattle’s radar for years, but their well-worn rock ‘n’ roll didn’t get much attention until the release of their EP Little Whispers, which earned them heavy airplay on KEXP in 2006. In fact, KEXP’s golden boy John Richards was so impressed with the band, he signed on as their comanager earlier this year. Richards continues to play the band on his morning show.

With that added (and potentially controversial) support, the Blakes inked a deal with Light in the Attic, the beloved local label that has built its reputation on uncovering rare gems of years past.

But Light in the Attic’s solid-gold catalog only makes the Blakes’ hollow revivalism all the more glaring. The band aim for classic in both sound and aesthetic—they’ve got the leather jackets, jeans, and moppy hair down to a tee—but musically, they’re insubstantial.

After “Two Times,” the guitar ditches the distortion for a glittery keyboard sound in “Don’t Bother Me.” The bass gets brighter, the drums get lighter, and the lyrics become power-pop poetry. “Magoo” is garage rock with fast twangs of guitar and tambourine, “Modern Man” is a Strokes rip-off (so, a copy of a copy), and “Lint Walk” is the token romantic song with Cure melodies.

The Blakes are good at what they do, but what they do is take cowardly stabs at a number of sounds. It’s sure to appease the mass market—so, love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Blakes probably aren’t going away anytime soon. MEGAN SELING

I feel so much better having said that.

I’m not going to flatter myself and think that my words will keep you from liking them, though, so should they be something you’re into (and let’s be honest, a lot of people are), the band’s playing two shows tonight—the earlier all-ages one is at the Vera Project at 7:30 pm with the Saturday Knights, and the later 21+ show starts around 9:30 pm at the Crocodile.

RSS icon Comments


I know I'm a member of the Blakes and you might expect a negative reaction from me, but aren't you an emo fan with zero taste in music? You listen to Glassjaw. I don't care if you think we're the most unoriginal, mediocre, posturing chowderheads who ever dared to pick up instruments, you should have some credibility to back up your condemning words. That was also an unnecessary, misinformed dig at John Richards. Why didn't Zwickel review the album? Was it a pet project of yours to bury us in print?

Posted by Bob | October 5, 2007 11:54 AM

Bob, dude, get off it. You sound stupid. Go back to your side of the playground.

Posted by Uninterested | October 5, 2007 12:26 PM

Sorry I don't like your band, Bob. But I also don't like Glassjaw.

I do like Jawbreaker and Jawbox, though, so you were half right.


Posted by Megan Seling | October 5, 2007 12:42 PM

Ha. All right, you're right. Stupid. Sometimes I get worked up, okay? Jawbreaker and Jawbox aren't so bad.

Posted by Bob | October 5, 2007 1:30 PM

You sure do like a lot of jaw bands.

Posted by WE - Mike | October 5, 2007 1:36 PM

Great review, Megan. The Blakes are shite. Though I don't usually share the same musical tastes as you, this review totally nails those limp dicks to a tree. Seattle needs less faux bad boy post punk crap. And this bob guy is coming across as a fucking douche.

Posted by henry | October 5, 2007 2:30 PM

Bob: Welcome to playing music. Sometimes not everyone will love what you do. Ignore it or grow from it, but responding pissily always - always - makes you look like an ass.

Posted by Levislade | October 5, 2007 2:35 PM

Yeah, I know. I realized that practically as soon as I posted the comment. Still getting used to negativity. Comes with the territory. What does it matter?

Posted by Bob | October 5, 2007 2:56 PM

Exactly; it doesn't matter at all, if you're enjoying what you do. Just have fun and don't let it get to ya.

Posted by Levislade | October 5, 2007 2:59 PM

Nice one Bob, there is nothing that will lower my estimation of a band faster than getting pissy with a critic for just calling it like they see it. I for one appreciate that Megan has the stones to call a boring band with a great marketing team a boring band with a great marketing team. Not that there's anything wrong with marketing, not that there's anything wrong with having a "look," but by God, if you're going to push an image, you better have some music to back it up. If David Bowie had been an overweight shlub in sweatpants and a dirty undershirt, I'd still want to hear every song he'd ever written. Can't really say the same for The Blakes, and certainly none of the New Condo / Former Greek System crowd would be coming down to see you and have their "Hee hee! Look at me! I'm at an edgy Seattle rock show!" experience if you weren't all so expertly groomed.

So don't get bitchy with Megan for being honest. Maybe you should stick with reading Seattle Sound if you just want to read people giving you band fluffy critical blowjobs

Posted by Jabey Beezus | October 5, 2007 3:01 PM

Bob...I don't give two shits either way about your band, but one piece of unsolicited advice...don't worry about looking like or being an ass. Fuck it, it's better than being a boring music critic.

Posted by Sally Struthers Lawnchair | October 5, 2007 3:50 PM

Seling doesn't like something...way to send me running topspeed towards it

Posted by instant moral compass | October 5, 2007 4:06 PM

The point of criticism, especially if it's negative, is to say something profound (bonus points if you inspire the musicians). Seling's words read like a whole bunch of mindless shit with no regards to the aesthetics of language. Grow up.

Posted by sliverpoise. | October 5, 2007 4:54 PM

damn, thats some polarized commenting there. which means the piece did spark a lot of critical thinking.

silverpoise, you couldnt be more wrong.

Posted by jz | October 5, 2007 5:39 PM

I am just wondering if John Richards really has anything to do financially with the Blakes, or any band that he has ever played on air (or told someone to play) That would be pretty poor (and illegal) use of public radio. I would be suprised if he was that iresponsible. so.. is it true?

Posted by ac/dc | October 5, 2007 7:19 PM

That would be interesting if in fact there is a John Richards tie in. We've, or maybe I've gotten so jaded with all the conflicts of interest floating around these days. That said, such a Kexspiracy would be quite lame.

...oh, and I'm not a big fan of The Blakes either. Don't really get the genre as a whole, or the band specifically. I keep hearing the band pushed, and keep hoping the next song will be something I like. So far no good.

Posted by curious | October 5, 2007 11:41 PM

concerning john richards and the blakes: yes, he is their co-manager. yes, he did push them on air before he ever pushed them to the labels (that he does A&R for). yes, he signed on as co-manager before he had them showcasing for kexp at SXSW. yes, he is still pushing them on-air before they play at CMJ (also a KEXP showcase). YES, YES, YES and YES. it's difficult to tell whose hands are in whose pockets.
how much does a co-manager make anyway? maybe i should get into co-managing.

Posted by spiderlegs | October 6, 2007 3:39 AM

not really, dearest jz. that's why everyone, whether like like the Blakes or not, are all WTF-confused over it. The overall composition of the review fails. She didn't give it much thought, so she coped out and wrote a bunch of cliches.

Posted by sliverpoise. | October 6, 2007 10:26 AM

Thank you for writing this Megan.

Also, it's good that finally someone is talking about John Richards playing and promoting a band that he makes money off of.

Bob, you're a douche-bag and your music is boring.

That's all.

Posted by E | October 6, 2007 12:56 PM

bob is not a douche-bag (you don't know him, E)

john richards isn't as transparent as he should be regarding the "conflict of interest" songs he spins

megan certainly doesn't have any original opinions here, and it's beyond me that anyone might think blasting the blakes takes "stones". please. as if seling doesn't love to pop balloons.

exactly how smart do you have to be to tell the blakes are drunk mimics? megan's mistake is thinking that makes them "cowardly". the judgment is totally unfounded and mean-spirited.

only a dumb girl who knows she's not going to get beat up would write that.

the blakes: not reinventing the wheel, but put out "the vibe" very well. they are buying it raw and selling it cheap.

megan seling: happy to dissappoint fans of fun

lol @: bob talking shit about seling's (unparalelled, well-documented) taste in emogothrock

Posted by ndrwmtsn | October 6, 2007 4:17 PM

and BTW megan, "not going to flatter yourself" that your opinion matters?

on one hand, good, because in this case it shouldn't

on the other hand, if you don't think your opinion has any consequence WHY THE HELL ARE YOU WRITING ABOUT MUSIC

Posted by ndrwmtsn | October 6, 2007 4:20 PM

Bob, I don't know you, you're probably not a douche-bag overall, and I do like your hair and leather jackets. You did, however, do a douche-bagish thing by freaking out cause you got some bad press.

NDRWMTSN -- still confused by your irrational allegiance for this band, considering that you've hated the Strokes since day-one and this strokesish, similarly named band (who isn't nearly as good or dynamic) comes along years later and is doing what they did, but the Strokes aren't on Light in the Attic, I guess.

Posted by E | October 6, 2007 5:24 PM

John Richards needs to stop fooling himself and move on to a major corporate radio station. The fact that he promotes bands that he stands to benefit from financially on a publicly funded listener supported station should cause an uproar to the Seattle music community as well as KEXP's listeners. KEXP, The Stranger, Three Imaginary Girls and the rest of the music mafia seem to promote all the same shit. There are a shitload of amazing bands in this town as well as a million bands that suck. Who gets the press and promotion is a political clusterfuck. Peace.

Posted by lola | October 6, 2007 6:45 PM

Whoever gets the press and promotion within the musical battlefield is whoever sends out press releases... yeah, exactly.

Posted by sliverpoise. | October 7, 2007 10:32 AM

dont see much confusion over the review, silverpoise. but then again, criticism of criticism is always obtuse, so maybe im just not seeing what youre seeing. and what you call "a bunch of cliches" are actually spot-on observations about a band that subscribes to a bunch of cliches.

as far as the kexp/three imaginary girls/seattle "music mafia": where was the first/only place you read about aja west? the trashies? tacocat? rik rude? brent amaker and the rodeo? ive never received a single press release from any of those artists, but theyve all been covered in-depth by the stranger.

the "seattle music mafia" doesnt exist, lola. or if it does, im certainly not a part of it--ive only been here nine months. getting made takes at least a few years, even if youre music editor at the stranger.

Posted by jz | October 7, 2007 3:06 PM

k.e.x.p. has changed. john richards should move on in my opinion. the fact that k.e.x.p. support bands locally is great. that is what we all pledge for...we hope to support our friends locally and bands we are fans of. ...but the truth is that john and cheryl...may have changed to be the enemy of local music. in life the only thing you can count on is change...that is why i change the channel.

Posted by sara | October 7, 2007 3:13 PM

Since when does a "RECORD review" entail discussing a bands fashion sense and hair style? Since when does a "RECORD review" discuss a bands "co-manager" or Label's catalog? What the fuck does this have to do with the record!?!? Grow up. John Richards is NOT the program director at KEXP. John Richards does NOT book kexp events. John Richards is a D.J. who plays what listeners want to hear. Did you ever think that maybe people want to hear the blakes? Have you ever been to a packed out blakes show? I have and it's great fun. I get so sick of seeing bands who start to get a little bit bigger have their city turn against them! Why not be excited for the people who work hard in our music scene. Not just the blakes but all of our bands. It's so sad that the seattle music scene has to be so torn and negitive. I'm sure that when these bands who don't get played by the kexp crew finally write an awesome record that people want to hear. They'll start charting on kexp and You will all be talking shit about them too.

Posted by Your mom | October 8, 2007 5:15 PM

i want the stranger to hate my band; therefore, i'll get john richards involved in my band. that'll do the trick!

Posted by richard johns | October 10, 2007 12:37 AM

i like them.
seattle much a bit like a war zone then, eh?
never been there.
um... bob is a palindrome. so yeah, alright then, see you on the 13th of november in austin, bob. quienes un cerveza? pitcher on me when you guys get here. we'll raise our glasses to the all the sexy little pricks in seatle.

Posted by -- | October 10, 2007 11:15 AM

I'd never heard of The Blakes until I heard a track on KEXP as played by their manager. (Found out about that thanks to this article! Can you say Conflict of Interest? How sleazy!) I liked the one song I heard on KEXP enough, bought the CD and then saw them play last weekend. What an awful disappointment - both live, and on CD. (The show lacked energy and there was nothing resembling rock & roll there, and even less originality. They seemed like a bunch of guys just begging for approval, which to me seemed kind of gross.) I would consider myself and informed popular music consumer that loves great 'rock and roll', but I couldn't get into The Blakes. OK so maybe they had an "off-night" right? After reading Bob's hurt-feeling, cry-baby, defensive response above, I couldn't help but feel embarassed for him and his band which prompted me to write here. Bob I am a 27 yr old woman and I feel like I've got a tougher skin than you! If they can't take criticism they'll never be able to weather the shit storm they're in for with an album this bland which lacks a good or memorable song imho. Bob it was disappointing to read what you wrote, I wanted to like your band.

It's kind of creepy that you hang out in the stranger's msg board reading and responding to posts about your band i think.

Posted by caitlin james (real music fan) | October 12, 2007 4:18 PM

Nice post up above from "your mom" (aka John Richards), what a turd!!!

Posted by ratney | October 12, 2007 4:24 PM

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