Blues Pills – Holy Moly! (Album Review)

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So here are your trivia materials for Blues Pills:

  1. They are Swedish, but — in 2011, half-brothers Zach Anderson and Cory Berry met vocalist Elin Larsson… in Iowa.  She had been staying in California before traveling to the Hawkeye State.  And a band was born.  Oh, and they went back to Sweden as their base.
  2. The band name came from a friend’s blog called BluesPillz, which focused on obscure rock from the ‘60s and ‘70s. I’m still not sure what it means.

Anyway, the band started gigging around Europe before releasing a series of EP’s.  Their first studio album came out in 2014 (appropriately titled “Blues Pills”).A live album was followed by 2016’s “Lady in Gold”, followed by another live release.  Which brings us to the now and the new album “Holy Moly!”

There have been some changes in personnel.  Elin Larsson is the front-woman and belter, still.  Zach Anderson has switched from bass to guitar. And it’s a good thing those two have stuck around—they write all the words and music. Drummer Andre Kvarnstom has been a Pill since 2014 (replacing Cory Berry).  Kristofer Schander is the new guy, taking over the bass. So now, I have an admission to make (which is part of the reason it’s taken so long to actually review “Holy Moly!” 

I should like this album—I mean, really like this album.  Elin Larsson has a great voice for these blues-based hard rockers.  Anderson is not a shredder, but his rhythm guitar in the background adds some interesting layers to the sound.  And when he does come out front, the playing is good.  The rhythm section is powerful, keeping the proceedings moving at a brisk and timely pace.  And speaking of pace, this is not a band that goes into endless blues noodlings.  Most of the songs are under four minutes, relatively short for recorded output nowadays. And those songs feature a good variety of musical approaches (all based on blues and hard rock) and very personal lyrics.

So why doesn’t “Holy Moly!” really grab me?  I’m not sure.  Perhaps my musical tastes have changed since college, when I really loved this style of music. 

“Holy Moly” Album Artwork

But here’s some thoughts on the songs:

  • Proud Woman” is the first single and video.  And this Elin’s chance to say, “I am woman, hear me roar.”  This is a hard-rockin’ blues number that’s a good start.
  • “Low Road” chugs along at a faster pace.  Like the single, this is one about self-empowerment.
  • “Dreamin’ My Life Away” takes things down a notch but maintains a power approach.
  • “California” is a blues ballad where Elin Larsson yearns for a lover — maybe from that period 10 years ago where she spent time in California?
  • “Rhythm in the Blood” is one of the more interesting songs here.  It starts with the sounds of flipping across the radio dial (does anybody really do that now?).  Then Anderson roars in with powerful licks reminiscent of Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi.
  • “Dust” is down and dirty (pun intended) blues.  And it’s about sex (isn’t that always true for the blues?)  Larsson opines that it’s only lust.  I believe her.
  • “Kiss My Past Goodbye” is another empowerment song with a strong, funky beat.  About 2/3 of the way through, it lurches into ZZ Top-land a la “La Grange.” 
  • “Wish I’d Known” has the plucking and strumming guitar licks of The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down.”
  • Bye Bye Birdie” must be about a big, powerful bird because this one rocks hard. 
  • “Song for a Mourning Dove” starts quiet before kicking out the jams with a slow beat blast.
  • “Longest Lasting Friend” wraps things up with a mild guitar and vocals.  Could Elin Larsson be singing about band-mate Zach Anderson, co-leaders of the group for 10 years?  The last line isn’t real hopeful: “It’s you and me to this bitter end.”

And that is the end of “Holy Moly!”

 There is nothing wrong with this album.  The playing is good, the songs are good, etc.  It just doesn’t make me play it over and over and over again.  I’d suggest you check out their videos if you’re thinking of getting this one.  It may grab you in ways it didn’t me.

Released by:  Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date:  June 20th, 2020
Genre: Hard Rock / Blues

Musicians:

  • Elin Larsson / Vocals 
  • Zack Anderson / Guitar 
  • André Kvarnström / Drums 
  • Kristoffer Schander / Bass 

 Holy Moly! track listing:

  1.  Proud Woman
  2. Low Road
  3. Dreamin’ My Life Away
  4. California
  5. Rhythm in the Blood.
  6. Dust
  7. Kiss My Past Goodbye
  8. Wish I’d Known
  9. Bye Bye Birdie
  10. Song for a Mourning Dove
  11. Longest Lasting Friend

8.3 Great

Blues Pills, in its third studio album, mines a traditional field of blues tinged rock. They’re good at what they do, but this reviewer just didn’t find them that compelling

  • Songwriting 8
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Production 8
  • Originality 8.5
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