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Black Crowes Warpaint Review

Album. Released 2008.  

BBC Review

Warpaint never quite catches fire as it should.

Tim Nelson 2008

Thinking about it now, it's hard not to think that the Black Crowes got lost in the middle of Sticky Fingers and never came out again. Americans, of course, place higher store than us fey Brits on craftsmanship, authenticity and consistency, but this can all too easily shade into formulaic predictability. Admittedly, back at the beginning of the 1990s, the Crowes' stew of dirty-riffing, blues-vamping, slide-slathering rock probably turned a lot of heads in a right direction. But that was several record labels and another millennium ago.

Warpaint sees new members Adam MacDougall (keyboards) and Luther Dickinson (guitar) join long-time Crowes on their seventh studio album (and first since 2001), but neither the time delay nor the new blood has prompted the kind of rethink that's likely to pull in new listeners, and even for long-time fans, this album is a bit on the flabby side. The opening Goodbye, Daughters Of The Revolution gets a wiggle on, but Walk, Believer, Walk is a clunker. Similarly, Oh Josephine and Locust Street are decent ballads, but There's Gold in Them Hills is plain maudlin. And while Evergreen, Movin' On Down the Line and Wounded Bird all have their share of mind-freeing, ass-following moments, Warpaint never quite catches fire as it should.

Perhaps, the problem lies elsewhere, in the confusion over the album's title: Is it a reference to current events or the band's self-image? The foldout inset, featuring a US flag with stars replaced by peace symbols and a marijuana leaf and a call to ''Stop the War'', suggests the former, but these radical sentiments are belied by the humdrum outer cover (a weak illustration of warriors on horseback), which, along with the abstracted come-down lyrics, seems designed to appeal to an uncommitted, apolitical good-time audience. Perhaps if the Black Crowes had worn their outrage on their sleeves a little more, they might have tapped into the primal rock 'n' roll spirit again and forged a more convincing comeback.

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