The latest full-length album from Inverloch/Melbourne-based band “Nick Carver and The Mean Street Butchers” is called “Animals”, and is nothing short of a modern classic. The album has many different influences and touches although the main vibe is bluesy/Country Rock. It has so much more than just semi-hollow acoustic guitars and slides to show these influences though.
The first thing this record reminded me of in its overall vibe was the soundtrack of the famous American Crime Drama series Sons of Anarchy, most of which was composed by Paul Brady and The Forest Rangers and some tracks were also made by The White Buffalo. The show dealt with an outlaw biker gang and the troubles gangster life has put their families in. The similarity of that vine is uncanny to that of “Animals”. Let’s take a track-by-track dive into the album and see what it has to offer.
The first track “Two Legged Dog” feels like it’s the background theme of a violent conflict on a dusty road. It strongly showcases the use of Keyboards and has very groovy basslines that are usually used by Hard Rock outfits rather than bluesy bands like these guys. The keyboard solo and the heavy section near the end will blow your mind away.
The second track “Let Me Go” has a pretty conventional blues first half, which is followed by a stompy drumbeat. Once again the keyboards are utilised wonderfully to aid the basslines and heavily distorted lead guitars make a groovy melody. This could be the credits theme of a violent movie that just had a very climactic scene. There’s a certain keyboard phrase that repeats to end the song with the drums going crazy behind it and I can imagine fans going crazy with this section in the live shows.
The third track “The Way That You Walk” is the mid-tempo power ballad sister of the violent songs before it. The vocals are remarkably calm in comparison to the way the previous songs had screeching highs and powerful lows to go along with their distorted guitars. A heartfelt guitar solo takes us to the final chorus which beautifully ends the track.
The fourth track “My Baby’s Eyes” shows the range these guys have, as it’s a calm and sweet ballad with soulful vocals and a sense of longing for love. It is short and doesn’t overstay its welcome and I was impressed with the soft vocals and percussion in particular.
The fifth track “Slow Dance” picks up where the first couple of tracks left. The minor chords playing in this track have a very ominous feeling to them which I love. The way the drums go back and forth from playing calm rimshots to full-blown powerful beats is nothing short of brilliant. The high notes near the end once again show the vocalist’s immense breath control and range that makes his high notes sound supported and stable.
The sixth track “Pony” is another high-note fest with soft clean guitars and a slower drumbeat. It has a pretty extended guitar solo followed by an organ section near its ending that gave me instant goosebumps.
The seventh track “Jimmy Wilson” begins with the line “My name is Jimmy Wilson and my life is shit” and for the rest of the verse, the vocalist makes use of a pretty nice story-telling attitude and mid-belts. The vocal line of the verses will remind you of the famous Black Sabbath hit from the 70s “After Forever”. The last thing I was expecting was a metal influence but it so far seems like Nick Carver and the Mean Street Butchers brought a full package of musical knowledge and influence to this titan of an album.
The eighth and final track, which is the title track, shows extensive use of head voice and falsetto that brings in the folk vibe of a local myth or story that’s being told. The way the instruments are building up during the verses and the drums get faster in the second verse also helps put us through the state of a story progressing and moving forward. This one is for the Folk/Blues purists out there but also a comfortable album closer after several heavy and violent tracks. A dissonant and powerful guitar solo with keyboards playing in the background feels a lot like something The Dire Straits could have written back in their prime days. The last minute of this six-minute opus is a fast-paced and dark section that keeps repeating the melody till it puts the listener in a state of trance and the melody begins to grow on you.
In the conventional sense, this is a blues album that has it all, as every element the blues lover will be anticipating is here. But in the more artsy sense, this album takes good care of its transitions and special moments unlike many of the modern music we hear today. I was amazed by how much it would fit in so many places and narratives but at the same time, these diverse songs have enough coherence to fit in the same album. The band’s desire to make a record with a theme did not in any way hinder or hold them back from flaunting their cast range and diverse set of abilities be it keyboard solos, distorted vocals or long extended sections that feel like a loud hard rock concert on their own. Every element on this record truly wins and I heavily recommend it to fans of blues-rock and country-rock alike.