“Dead Girl” opens the second self-titled album by The Blackmail Seduction with a big, cinematic number and arrayed guitars thanks to chief songwriter Jess McClellan and lead guitarist Troy Hardy. There’s no single showcase moment for the guitars and the way they are spread out throughout the song makes more of an impact than any guitar solo could for this number. The second track “High” has one of the band’s customary big choruses, but these moments never ring false and the accompanying guitar pyrotechnics light it up in a way we never hear with the opener. Jess McClellan’s vocals stand out, but never as much as they do on the song “Tell the World” where he commandeers a hard hitting rock arrangement that never pulls its punches with listeners. The main guitar lick at the heart of the track makes for an excellent counterpoint with his singing.
“She’s Leaving Home” moves the band away from the guitar serving as the lead instrument and, instead, has a stronger orchestral dynamic than we’ve heard with the earlier songs. There are keyboards elsewhere on the release, but they assume a greater prominence with this performance than we’ve heard with other songs. The vocals, both McClellan and secondary voices, find their mark with this track and the nuanced arrangement gives them a great platform to work from.
“Visiting Hours” takes the release in a much different direction than the previous numbers and is clearly positioned as one of the marquee cuts included with The Blackmail Seduction II. It’s interesting to hear how the band shifts gears once again with this cut and relies on a groove-centered approach to the performance. The lattice-like guitar work ringing out throughout the song gives the track a cohesive and lightly melodic gait, but drummer Blair Sinta really distinguishes himself with an artfully restrained performance.
“Some Things Are Forever” has all the marks of a song capable of exerting widespread appeal for the band. It’s radio and stage ready alike and has an old fashioned tone with its mix of acoustic and electric guitar playing. All the characteristic elements of The Blackmail Seduction’s songwriting are present, however, and McClellan’s singing is particularly strong. Despite the shifts in feel and tone, there’s a remarkable unity bringing The Blackmail Seduction II together and it means this is a more overall satisfying release. The songwriting is concise yet eloquent and the unwillingness to waste a note or word in these compositions accentuates the urgency inherent to the band’s material.
The Blackmail Seduction is still a relatively young band, but they are stage-tested and clearly ready for Prime Time rather than continue toiling in the netherworld of indie rock. Their sound is well rounded, never entirely reliant on one style, and that musical fluency is bedrocked by an innate sense of melody that never deserts them.
-review by Joshua Beach