When the Blakes re-released their self-titled record with Light in the Attic Records in 2007, the hype was palpable. Pitchfork, Spin, NPR, and some local rag called Seattle Weekly all praised the band’s gritty bar-rock and pop accessibility. Their 2009 self-released follow-up, Souvenir, carried the same excitement, and again the Blakes met with high praise and routine airplay on KEXP. It’s now been five years since much of anything has been written about them. So where did the band go? Answer: nowhere.
On May 27 the band released A Darker Green, their sixth record since the self-titled breakthrough (if you count Thin Air by side project BEADS). Even more shocking, the new material sounds perfectly in line with what they were doing before the turn of the decade. The psych-rock leanings of “Sister Carrie” are just as hard-hitting and fist-bump-worthy as the early single “Don’t Bother Me.” If there’s any change in tone, it’s that the band has widened its scope, showing more willingness to indulge in melancholy jams. The Blakes aren’t fully reliant on the chunky riffs that garnered them praise, but they’re still in there.
Which proves that on or off the radar, the Blakes are remarkably consistent—but it’s not the band’s output that’s the issue here. More noteworthy is that the Blakes are a victim of today’s fad mentality. As Seattle’s music landscape has morphed over the years, just as grunge came and went, other genres have too. When bands like Fleet Foxes and The Head and the Heart stepped into the spotlight, the Blakes never pandered or succumbed to their indie-lite trappings, forging ever forward in the direction they started in.
Despite a lack of press, and with no lack of effort on their part, the Blakes have toured relentlessly in support of their independent releases. It could be that mainstream success doesn’t quite suit the band’s grimy attitude, but if the followings of The Grizzled Mighty and Hobosexual is any indication, there are still plenty of chances for the Blakes to experience their own McConaissance. And if that doesn’t happen, those who have stuck with the group throughout the fads and trends will find the same band they fell in love with.
THE BLAKES With Hearts Are Thugs. Slim’s Last Chance, 5606 First Ave. S., 762-7900, slimslastchance.com. $10. 21 and over. 9:30 p.m. Sat., June 7.