The Blue Stones are a blues rock band, very much in the vein of the White Stripes, Black Keys or Arctic Monkeys. This October, they finally released their second album “Black Holes,” which I was looking forward to with much anticipation. I was first introduced to the rock duo while planning for my radio show. The first song I heard was the title track of this album, which was released a year ahead of the album. Its quiet intro leads into a raunchy, fuzzed-out riff that transitions perfectly back into a quiet verse. The switches between quiet and loud are a notable trademark of this album. Singer Tarek Jafar’s voice soars on the title track, howling over the fuzzy guitar and bombastic drums.
The album itself starts with “Airlock,” a space-themed Pink Floyd tribute, featuring a pulsating synth that reminds listeners of “On the Run.” “The Drop” has pretty repetitive lyrics, with The Blue Stones’ trademark: quiet-loud fluctuations. The song grooves pretty well, however, with the verses showing off Justin Tessier’s drumming and backup vocals. It gets heavier during the chorus, as Jafar sings, “I’ve been alone a long time.” The third track of the album, “The Hard Part,” starts off with a steady drum groove. Jafar’s voice here sounds similar to either Dan Auerbach or Alex Turner. The bridge of this song is one of my favorite Blue Stones moments. It takes the simple “da-na-na” line that we’ve all heard a million times but puts it over a heavy and dirty blues riff. While I think the majority of this album is fairly derivative, this is one of the elements that the Blue Stones have put their stamp on.
On “Be My Fire,” Jafar channels Turner again, with a smooth and soulful swagger over a tight drum and guitar groove. Jafar never really solos on the guitar, yet the ending to this song is the closest he gets — it leaves the listener wanting more. “Midnight” starts off with a cool drum groove and is a little bit more spacey than the other songs. It does return to fuzz riffs in the middle of the song, yet it is done in a way that doesn’t sacrifice groove; it sounds more contained.
It may seem that I’m slamming the album a lot in this review. The reality is that The Blue Stones are a talented band, but they are definitely caught up in emulating certain styles of rock. The result of this a similar sound to The Black Keys or The White Stripes; even their band names all have an object described with a color in their name. They all play fuzzy blues riffs to their heart’s content. There are heavily repetitive patterns in this album, like alternating quiet and loud sections, choruses that have one lyric that alternates with a riff and extensive use of a fuzz pedal and similar tempos. There’s definitely substance to these songs, yet only one or two that stand out as being different from the rest of the album.