The Belles – Omerta

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Album Review by Mark Bayross

The guitarist/songwriter meets drummer/percussionist line-up may have become de rigeur since The White Stripes got the NME’s knickers in a twist, but this Kansas-based duo, comprising Christopher Tolle and Jake Cardwell, are a very different proposition. No distortion-heavy blues-rock here – this is its stripped-down acoustic elder cousin.

Their debut album – whose title translates as “Code of Silence” – is a succession of beautifully rendered but ultimately unmemorable strummed ballads that come in somewhere between Turin Brakes, Will Oldham and REM in their more introspective moments. Being derivative is not a crime when the end result is repackaged as something thrilling, but about the only standout song is forthcoming single NEVER SAID ANYTHING and that begins with a facsimile of the opening chords to ZIGGY STARDUST and to be honest, I’d rather hear that.

Tracks like the more upbeat LITTLE MEXICAN and the closing A THOUSAND SHIPS have a certain lo-fi charm, but the whole effect is just a bit too innocuous and homogenous to make this truly essential. Having said that, the overall warmth of the album did grow on me with repeat listens, so maybe you need to give it some time.

3 stars