You can listen to an album anytime, but listening to it in the right context can often make a huge difference in how much enjoyment can be had. For their third album, Get Yr Blood Sucked Out, Viva Voce would ideally like the listener to “pop this in the car system, roll the windows down, put on the shades, sip the Dr. Pepper and haul ass. Pick up that special someone. Then cruise to the lake and make out.” I’ll be honest . . . I did none of the above. In fact, my first listen to the album came on a sleepy Saturday morning after a night out with a friend at a couple of clubs, remembering why I usually don’t stay out until 4 AM on a regular basis. Perhaps it wasn’t the best situation for listening to this Alabamian duo’s album, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t shake the previous night’s fog out of my brain and wake me up.
This is the first time I’ve heard a Viva Voce album all the way through. My previous exposures have been various tracks in passing, and on those occasions what struck me was the band’s immediately accessible grasp of pop. But listening to Get Yr Blood Sucked Out, I realized that whatever vague impression I had of the band as some kind of cute pop duo was completely off. With no less than electric guitar, acoustic guitar, baritone guitar, drums, bass, harmonica, recorder, bowed saw, keyboards and roto-toms (I have no idea what those are but they sound fucking cool), Viva Voce are as ferocious as they are catchy. Blending a love of 70s FM rock with an astute ear for melody Get Yr Blood Sucked Out captures all of the bombast that genre suggests, but thankfully with none of the cliches.
The most refreshing element of the disc is that it’s played with a straight face. There is no winking at the audience or processed attitudes here to try and hold up weak tracks—Viva Voce’s talent holds them up on their own. On the best tracks, the band’s mix of influences is completely seamless. “From The Devil Himself”—easily the best song on the entire disc—is pretty damned near to perfect. Rousing handclaps, Bonham drums, and the voices of Anita and Kevin Robinson pick up the listener and carry them through the storm. The band also succeed on less propulsive tunes such as “When Planets Collide”. It retains the huge sound, but the band are able to hold back, showing a remarkable control over their material. Even the eight-minute stoner jam “So Many Miles” works despite itself, as the band’s measured approach allows the song to unfold organically without showing their hand all at once.
Unfortunately, the last third of the disc stumbles badly with a clutch of well-produced but verging on laughably bad tracks. “Special Thing” with its hippie haze, the quasi-Bowie song “Never Be Like Yesterday” and the Pink Floyd tinged “How To Nurse A Bruised Ego” are failed experiments in stepping outside of the band’s usual sound.
It’s hard to say if I can recommend purchasing the album, considering the disc’s poor finale. However, what I can almost guarantee is that even without a sweet ride and a six of Dr. Pepper, Get Yr Blood Sucked Out is still powerful enough to at least get you to second base.
// Notes from the Road
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