Black Pistol Fire’s 2011 full-length debut earned them a lot of comparisons to the Black Keys, and with good reason: the drum-n-guitar blues-rock two-piece was plowing the same furrow, and using the same hoarse-voiced, high-octane approach, as the boys from Akron, with often similar results – 10 years later. Three years and an interim album later, Hush or Howl benefits from the Canadian duo finding their own sound to an extent, or maybe it’s just that as the Keys have moved away from their blues-based roots, there’s more free space for the Pistols to claim the territory as their own.
It doesn’t really matter. Black Pistol Fire manage to bring the rawk on nearly every track, which is what we care about. Album opener “Alabama Coldcock” sets the tone with its reverbed fuzz-chords and nasty hook, while uptempo rockers such as “Dimestore Heartthrob”, “Hush” and “Run Rabbit Run” showcase bother Kevin Mckeown’s six-string chops and Eric Owen’s unflagging versatility on the drum set. It’s not all mindless chord-bashing, either, as the sweet downtempo number “Your Turn to Cry” makes clear, while the dexterous fingerpicking on “Hipster Shakes” gives McKeown a chance to show just how nimble his fingers are. Ultimately, the boys are still working within a very confined space, and the comparisons with other bands will continue. But as the best of this album makes clear, the duo is not just a Black Keys/White Stripes knockoff. Here’s hoping that future albums see a further refinement of their own sound.