The Blakes' full-length debut starts so promisingly, with a blast of false-start feedback leading into a genuinely funky bass groove that promises an "indie-dance" band that people will actually want to dance to. But then, about 11 seconds into "Two Times," Garnet Keim starts singing and it all goes immediately downhill. With a singer who didn't have Keim's strained, affected, hoarse voice (imagine Screech from Saved by the Bell in front of an indie rock band), the Blakes would have strong potential, because mentally blocking the vocals reveals "Two Times" to be a fairly terrific dance-rocker. Luckily, the Blakes have Keim's brother, Snow Keim -- and really, wouldn't you love to have a chat with their parents about the names that were rejected on their way to Garnet and Snow? -- whose affably plain vocals on the second track, "Don't Bother Me," improve matters greatly. But then it's back to Garnet sounding like a constipated howler monkey on the otherwise fine Strokes-like jangle rocker "Modern Man," and the whole thing is bollixed up again. So, depending on who's at the mike, about half of The Blakes ranges from pretty solid to downright awesome; that last would be the dreamy ballad "Vampire," powered by an adorably weedy keyboard line, acoustic guitar, and Bob Husack's sterling drumming. Husack is the album's MVP throughout, actually: at a time when indie rock drummers tend to be so stilted that the bands have to turn their deficiencies into a "we mean to sound like this" style, he's a two-legged groove machine and the Keim brothers are lucky to have him, because he makes even the songs Garnet is squealing over listenable. If the Blakes decided to make one of their two singers the band's lead voice -- one hopes they would make the correct choice in this situation -- they could be a band to be reckoned with, a commercially viable indie rock band on the same level as the Killers, Franz Ferdinand, or the Arctic Monkeys. -AMG
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