Blacktop Mojo – Static (2020)

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As a mad cyclist with far too many bikes, I am often pulling them apart as I service them and replace or upgrade parts. But, what do you do with the bits that are still great and useful, but that don’t fit your needs of the moment?

I reckon Blacktop Mojo knows…

Blacktop Mojo hails from Texas and this is their fourth record, this one being an EP with a duration of 18 minutes. The 4 tracks on it were written and recorded during the “Under the Sun” cycle, but didn’t fit that record’s overall feeling. Matt Curtis (bass) said about them, “These weren’t ‘throwaway’ songs. We wrote every song with the intention of it being on the album.

“The End” started with an almost organic/ mechanical opening and a killer bass line. It had me hooked immediately as it unfolded and muscled up slowly. Matt James’s clear and accessible vocals had a powerful range and depth as they expressed the senses of loss and anger that we feel after a breakup. This track’s deeply emotional messages were conveyed clearly and it quickly had me humming along. Fabulous engineering was used to mesh the layers of sound into a compelling experience. A sublime guitar solo featured later, serving to show that these folks are accomplished musicians.

“Watch Me Drown” immediately had me thinking of the scenes in movies where the character is in the water, slowly submerging and slipping more deeply below the surface. The use of acoustic and slide guitars were soothing and hypnotic. As the track unfolded, a series of fabulous guitar parts were combined masterfully. James’s vocals oscillated between soothing and heavily laden with depression and torment.

“Leave It Alone” opened with acoustic guitar and a thick sense of emotion was conveyed in a very simple manner – sometimes less is more. It was smooth and stylish and there was a line that pricked my ears, “Pain captured in Kodachrome’. After some searching, I found that James saw a TV interview with a World War 2 veteran, who had watched a black and white documentary about the war, but who then relived it in colour. Here is an excellent example of the depth of the lyrics on the album. This track was one of restrained power.

“Signal’s Gone” started with a clever acoustic guitar part. All through this track I loved the honesty and integrity of the guitars. This track immediately felt like a tale of loss and some clever imagery and analogies were used, based on the signal theme, such as “the technicolor hue is turning grey” and “nothing but a white noise, now the signal’s gone”. The track rounded out with a complex and confronting static-inspired sound that built to the point of being annoying and disquieting – perfect for this track.

This was a dynamic and introspective album, with the 4 tracks being very different to each other, but when put together served to expand upon each other. I was immediacy grabbed by this album, with the lyrics, vocals and musicianship all of the highest order.

I also enjoyed that the sound was an amalgam of different styles: beneath the grunge exterior a Southern hard rock heart beat strongly.

I mentioned having a number of bike parts on hand that are still useful and wondering what to do with them. This album is like some of the bikes in my shed with which I have a special bond – they are like hot rods, built of special components that result in something greater than the sum of its parts.

10/10

Greg Noble.

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