Sometimes there’s just no way to mistake where a band comes from. In any given case, it might be the singer’s accent or tonality that does it or sometimes it’s just a particular vale or sound inserted somewhere among the instrumental performances, but it’s unmistakably there and listeners know it as soon as they hear it – no matter how potentially intangible it might be. On Vulture Whale‘s Aluminium album, it takes no time at all to place the sound as being unmistakably from Alabama; throughout the running, singer Wes McDonald has a certain laid back timbre in his vocal delivery (similar to that of Drive-by Truckers) which is instantly appealing, but the enduring heart and soul in the band’s solid rock delivery just feels instantly lived in as well as being uniquely “from the South.”
As soon as “Can’t Help It” ambles out and opens the album smoothly and easily, listeners will know what they’re in for from Vulture Whale and so instantly be able to let that excitement build. There, a muddy guitar tone pulls a four-on-the-floor drum figure and perfectly spare but sweetly melodic bass line into the spotlight along with McDonald’s vocal and casts a spell over listeners the old fashioned way: by just presenting a good, hooky and hummable tune with no ridiculous frills to distract from it. It doesn’t take long for the song to burrow its way into the collective minds of listeners and so, by the time the track begins to break down (at around the two-and-a-half-minute mark) listeners will be loving it and lighting up brightly because of it.
The great energy put out by “Can’t Help It” proves not to fade as Aluminium‘s A-side continues. “Raised Doubts” follows that opening cut and figures a speedy, jazzy rhythm into the mix which was definitely first developed in a multitude of barrooms around the South before “Five Step Plam” trades jazz in for a great, fierce rock demeanor. Now, I don’t know what a “Plam” is and I don’t care – when the guitars really begin to growl here, listeners will feel it before they’re hit with the solid, straight laces and no-nonsense tone of “Hope It’s Alright.” After that runs, listeners will have to catch their breath – the tones and dynamic shifts in those first songs are something which really need to be heard to be believed – but it won’t keep them from wanting more.
The B-side of the album opens by staying firmly entrenched in the Alabama bar scene (“Will To Maintain” plays around with more jagged guitar figures and bounces them off of McDonald’s vocal well enough – even if it isn’t remarkable) and keeps that vibe up through the relaxed tones of “Again and Again” the album’s title track and the “get your lighter out” anthem “Whistle For Sid” (which does feature whistling in a very cute way) before closing out these proceedings with one last barroom funk jam in the form of “DYB.”
Now, it would be difficult to say that the limited lyric sheet and generally half-formed impression that “DYB” leaves isn’t a bit of a disappointment and would have been better-placed anywhere other than at the end of the album but, in the end, “DYB” still manages not to derail the progress that Aluminium has made. Listeners will find they’re still happy to restart the album not because something felt left out or something is generally unsatisfying, but because it’s just fun. Vulture Whale have made something easy to enjoy over and over here.
(Cornelius Chapel Records)
The vinyl pressing of Aluminium is out now, pressed on aluminium-colored vinyl. Buy it here from Cornelius Chapel Records.