We very probably received this promo for The Stone Foxes debut album Twelve Spells too late. They are fresh from their UK debut tour of small UK venues and for a band that has based its early reputation on live shows and their sound on the organic vibe and tightness of a band playing together, we (and now most likely you) have missed that opportunity to go and see them close up and personal whilst you still can. The San Francisco based band have already chalked up an impressive Spotify following and toured with the likes of The Black Keys, Cage The Elephant and ZZ Top in the US and with the imminent release of their debut record things could move even faster for them.
Twelve Spells itself promises a raw organic blues driven swagger with influences such as the Artic Monkeys, White Stripes and the Black Keys. For me it has proven to be one of those albums that I needed repeated listens to before I really got into it. First couple of plays through it sounded a good album, great tight live sound but I missed the subtleties of the sounds and the full range of influences at play. Once I’d broken through that barrier I soon realised that this is a debut full of energy, musicianship, ideas, and just out and out rock tracks.
Album opener “Eye For Love” starts with a spoken word and funk section and if anything this is perhaps the only part of the album that reminds me anything of Artic Monkeys albeit an Artic Monkeys transferred to the San Francisco sunshine. Don’t let this description put you off though – think of AM as produced by Josh Homme bringing out the rockier and funkier side of their armoury. With the second track “I Want To Be You” although similarly paced, with the quiet almost spoken lyrics and interspersed guitars and punching bass lines the band introduce an even more laid back feel and catchy 70’s style chorus.
The range of influences on this album is vast and where we have that West Coasts 70’s feel on “This Town” I am instantly reminded of Thin Lizzy. The chorus in particular could be Phil Lynott singing. Like Thin Lizzy, The Stone Foxes have a tendency to have a more relaxed style in the verse before hitting into a punchier and catchier chorus.
The stand out track and indeed the lead single on the album is “Dying Star” (video below). The introduction of some great Hammond organ sounds and general raucousness is a great pace change at this point. The guitar introduction, and organ sound along with the vocal pace and style is Palma Violets at their best and most in your face. This is a feel good rocker that you know is going to be a highlight of their live set. The buzzing guitars at the beginning of “New York Talk” again have that slightly 70’s feel but vocally this time it’s the Kings of Leon we are reminded of, including the early trademark whoops and raised inclinations at the end of each sentence and pause for breath.
The group claps and chorus on “Jericho” make it a great drinking song. It has that gang feel of everyone joining in and jamming together. There’s a little bit of harmonica and slide guitar thrown in for good measure. The influences you can hear on this record is everywhere. Another standout track is “My Place”. This track would not have been out of place on Primal Scream’s Give Out But Don’t Give Up.
So what is it that has got the critics and fans alike so excited about Twelve Spells and The Stone Foxes in particular? I think that it is because they are so instantly familiar, raw and organic but more importantly they are more than the sum of their parts. They are more than any one member of the band and a lot more than just one of their many influences. So what you get is a record that is raw, sweaty, funky, sexy and sounds like all your favourite records from the last 40 years but they are songs and arrangements that you have never heard. There is a gang mentality to the record and to the experience; an inclusiveness; you feel that you could be the grooving with the band, sharing a drink and the moment.