The Blackmail Seduction – The Blackmail Seduction II

Jess McClellan has a knack for writing about serious subjects set within substantive and entertaining musical landscapes. It isn’t a skill shared by everyone. Even the moodiest material present on The Blackmail Seduction II is sweetened by the vocal or instrumental work in some way.

McClellan and his cohorts in the band possess a satisfying talent for effortless, immediate melodies and those elements find their way into even the roughest musical moments included on this collection. There’s definitely some dissonance finding its way into the first song Dead Girl, though guitar has a more diffuse, broad-based influence on this track than it does later numbers. Their aforementioned melodicism comes into play here and the song is the first on the release to showcase McClellan’s strength writing memorable choruses.

Tell the World is the most emphatic moment on The Blackmail Seduction II, a set the house on fire rock number with extensive lead playing and a riff that’s difficult to soon forget. They sound completely comfortable with the style and McClellan, in particular, gets a chance to show off his vocal dexterity with a performance equal part searing and emotionally aware. The backing vocals for this song are a nice touch in keeping with the review’s opening sentence.

High backs away from the guitar theatrics of the previous number for its first half, but explores them in a much different way in the song’s second half. There’s a strong Midwestern rock sound to the guitar playing in the second part of the song, unsurprising given the band’s origins, but it’s potently their own and never outright imitative. One of the best parts of this band for me is how you recognize the terrain they are traveling through, but they do it with a style all their own.

Visiting Hours rides a low hung mid-tempo trajectory for much of the song, but there are important changes upping the song’s emotional ante and bringing us deeper into its reality. It’s one of McClellan’s finest moments as a singer as he carefully straddles a line between baleful despair and emotional catharsis; you are transfixed early on by his vocal and stay with him throughout the whole song.

The brief final number, Aloha, bears repeated listens. It might first sound like a musical toy for the band, a winking final shot for their audience, but I don’t think the band writes or performs songs that aren’t somehow close to the heart. There’s a strong sense of McClellan’s personality coming through during this number and the unusual musical choices and influences throughout the track only make it more entertaining.

The Blackmail Seduction II is a multi-level listening experience. It engages listeners intellectually, physically, and emotionally without relying on any shallow textures or gestures to draw listeners into its web. Instead, the songwriting is ruthlessly honest from the outset, surprisingly playful without dragging things into burlesque, and plays well over repeated hearings. This isn’t fly by night music; The Blackmail Seduction are obviously intent on sticking around for some time to come and they definitely have the talent to make that happen.

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Eric Jarvis

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