Straight Up Exciting Rock and Roll from Juliette and the Licks

There are some bands that blow me away with their creativity, creating something I have never heard before... and then there are bands that hit me because they're just playing great rockin' music... that's fun to listen to. I'd definitely put Juliette and the Licks in the second category as this band seems to be making some great rock and roll that would almost certainly translate to a killer live show.

Juliette and the Licks are one of the bands I first heard about very very briefly before and came back to because I heard they would be playing Lollapalooza this year. Well, I didn't really have any expectations having never heard anything by them. From the first song though, I was pleasantly surprised none the less and kept coming back to listen to their music all day.

This is a band best described as straight up rock and roll. Fronted by Juliette Lewis, known for work with other musicians and in movies, I think... I couldn't place the name at first, but I recall it vaguely now... they create a sort of blend between proto punk energy and arena rock. These are catchy rock songs with good hooks and choruses infused with just touches of hard rock, punk, pop and alternative. It all really works well together making for music that you can really see the band tearing into on stage, and some of the pictures I've seen do seem to indicate that they do just that. I've so far only gotten to hear the songs that are on their Myspace page, but I like what I've heard and will definitely keep an eye out for future music and a chance to see the band live.

Two songs struck me right off the bat: "Hot Kiss" and "Purgatory Blues". Both are rockers yet each has a distinct flavor. "Hot Kiss" sounds like a punk infused classic rock number with a great riff and a pulsing feel that is catchy although not exactly groundbreaking. It's such a catchy fun rock and roll song though, that I kept listening to it on repeat. There is loads of energy that hints just slightly at the likes of AC/DC...early AC/DC... and the early punk rock scene and makes for one great rock song through and through. "Purgatory Blues" is more progressive with a bit of a twisting riff, a more swaying haunting vocal style and lines and some haunting effects in the middle. The chorus though, is straight up proto punk energy meets pop rock styling that really recalls the Foo Fighters, but not in a bad way, like a rehash or a direct copy.

Both these songs really drew me in and made me want to check out a few of the others available to listen to. There's some other interesting tracks as well that show some different sides of this band and overall a group that seems to be making some great rock and roll.

"Get Up" has the band channeling some arena rock with an epic feel to open, but more of a pop swagger with a rock and roll chorus. Both it and "Sticky Honey" feel in line with the first two songs, with "Sticky Honey" having a slight more of a garage rock riff, but again, a great rock and roll chorus and feel throughout. "Are you Happy" though, was a complete surprise when I first heard it. It's a slow building ballad, with far more personal lyrics than the rockers and although it does swell into more of a rock feel that would surely earn some lighters live, it doesn't seem as in line with the other songs. That's not at all saying it's a bad song, as I think it's pretty compelling to listen to, but was a bit unexpected... in a good way. It shows a different side to the band and Juliette Lewis herself, which adds some depth. Plus her vocal work really pushes the song forward in a soaring almost haunting kind of way.

In fact, I think Lewis's vocals throughout are pretty compelling as she can get that haunting, pure tone pop singer vocal style, but also seems to channel some of rock and roll's other great female singers including a little Janis Joplin and Joan Jett... maybe more than a little Joan Jett, there's some definite similarities both vocally and musically, but again in a good way. Lewis has enough grit to make the rockers sting and sear, but can pull it back for a softer edge like on "Are You Happy"... AND just from the pictures of the band live I've seen, it certainly seems like she's got the charisma to really command a stage and get the crowd into it.

Also, I didn't realize it at first, but apparently Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters sat in when the band's drummer left and played drums on the newest release. Once I learned that I listened to these tracks again, and on the ones from the new album it does sound a bit like Grohl hitting those hard drum explosions. I don't know how much of a hand he had in the new album, but it does make me wonder if that is where my comparisons to the Foo Fighters came from. Who knows... rarely have I found having Dave Grohl on drums in a band to be a bad thing though.

I wasn't completely floored by the band, but I'm definitely interested and I can't really say anything negative about the music at all. Sometimes I prefer just straight rock, and I think they'd be a hell of a show to catch live just from the tracks I've heard so far. As straight up rock bands go, Juliette and the Licks sound like a good rockin' time with a lot energy... Can't go wrong with that.

If you're into straight up rock and roll, then I think you should check out Juliette and the Licks. They have a couple of albums I believe, but as I said, I've only heard those few tracks so far. Still, those tracks sounded pretty great to me and I'll be keeping an eye out for new music from them and their albums in the future.

You can listen to the tracks I've mentioned here at the band's Myspace page:

You can also check out the band's homepage here, but I've had some technical difficulties with it, so beware:


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