'Opening Night' Is an Audacious, Breathless Debut from the Blam Blams

Photo courtesy of Duende Vision / Anana Kaye

Nashville glam-rockers, the Blam Blams' Opening Night is a glittery concept album overflowing with skill and melody.

Opening Night
The Blam Blams


28 August 2020

It's one thing to wear your influences on your sleeve. The Blam Blams, a quartet out of Nashville, have gone so far as to raid a glam rock closet from the mid-1970s and are trying on every outfit. But this isn't a band that use a bygone era as some fashionable crutch – they marry their love of classic songcraft, angelic harmonies, and arena-sized riffs with meticulous skill and dedication. Opening Night, their debut album, is both a love letter to another era and an engaging collection of instantly lovable songs.

As with many of the albums that have influenced the Blam Blams' sound, Opening Night is a concept album. It explores the life of Sydney Fabel, a queer actor and artist in 1970s London, as he steps onto the stage for the first time in his life both literally and figuratively. Consequently, themes of self-expression, anxiety, and sexuality are explored. Musically, the most obvious influence here is Queen. There are moments on Opening Night when the listener might swear that they were hearing a deep cut from A Night at the Opera or A Day at the Races. But again, this isn't a lazy exercise in derivative mimicry. The songs are strong, and the album is expertly paced – the title track kicks things off with vocalist and keyboardist Bradley Owens setting the stage: "The lights are going up," he croons over the gentle piano as the band simmers behind him. "The crowd is filing in to see the show / My life is on display, in a way / I feel I've been backstage so many lonely days."

"Overture" follows suit with more stage-setting as the sweeping, piano-centric musical themes give way to full-band stomping, complete with David Estes' squealing, multi-tracked guitar leads and vintage organ. Opening Night contains plenty of theatrical moments, but – perhaps more than anything else – it rocks heavily. "Blue Light" includes some of the album's most propulsive, rocking moments with Marc Bolan-esque riffs and a chugging rhythm section courtesy of bassist Rob Stewart and drummer Christian Northover (the latter a one-time member of Car Seat Headrest). Those breathless, up-tempo moments are nicely tempered with Owens bringing the band back down to the ground long enough for some theatrical spoken word. "Welcome to the Theater Fantabulosa, here in the heart of the West End," he intones dramatically as Fabel and the Galactic Theater Company perform their first show.

But along with all the fussy-yet-fun complexity that comes along with a retro-leaning concept album, Opening Night includes a generous helping of gleaming pop moments that work perfectly well on their own without any backstory. The wonderfully engaging single "Isabella" bops along on a catchy shuffle beat with those ever-present harmonies and Owens' electric piano providing a delightfully funky foundation. Fabel's story fits in perfectly here, as the song describes his relationship with his girlfriend that's more about her clothes than anything else: "Isabella, my love," Owens croons. "I sing your name in the morning time/ Thought of giving you up / But a woman with your wardrobe is hard to find."

Other songs on the album that were previously released as singles include the slinky, swaggering "Throwaway Lines" and the fist-pumping "Arc Light City". The latter brings Estes' chugging riffs to the foreground (with piano and synth relegated to a low-key backdrop), creating something of a readymade arena anthem. Elsewhere, Opening Night plenty of non-glam influences: the breakneck pace of "He Said" has a bit of a punk/power-pop flavor, and "You Got the Drop on Me", with its cheesy Vox Continental organ, recalls the melodic conciseness of 1960s garage rock.

But the pomp and circumstance of Opening Night come full circle with the album's elaborate closing track. "The Show's Over" ends things appropriately with the knitting together of several mini-sections, from piano-led balladry to Estes' majestic Brian May-isms to the full band stomping away as if their life depended on it. It's a lovably over-the-top conclusion to an album full of hooks, riffs, earworms, and ambitious, lofty ideas. Somewhere, Freddie Mercury is looking down and smiling.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.