Having safely navigated the devastating torrent of Hurricane Sandy at the back end of October, Long Island-based The Last Internationale are gearing up to release a superstorm of their own in the shape of their blues drenched ‘New York, I Do Mind Dying‘ EP.
The band released their self titled debut album in 2009, while 2011 saw the release of follow-up record ‘Choose Your Killer’, both of which showcased songs containing socialist layered, lyrically lucid, anti-capitalist statements in the similar mould of fellow musicians crying out for revolution – Rage Against The Machine. Tracks such as ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Indian Blood’ tackled the injustice of usurpation by white settlers of a once Indian inhabited American land, acting as a metaphorical protest march in song form to the rich and poor divide we see in Western culture today, while further strife arose from the complex nature of human emotions is laid bare on the pared down acoustic number ‘Fuzzy Little Creatures’, documenting the social domestic demons still existing in modern society where gender equality is concerned.
The predominant composition of the band contains the dual combination of Delila on lead vocals/bass and guitarist Edgey, although they’ve developed a reputation as a raucous live group when utilising the addition of a drummer on tour. The overall sound on record encompasses the earliest roots of blues and folk, infusing traditional methods with their own stylistic, energetic punk aesthetic, making for a raw, stripped back sound free from any mechanical trickery seen amongst much of today’s young rock & roll pretenders. This has led to the formation of what’s become known as an almost blues sub-genre in ‘blues ‘n boots’, deriving from the desire to stamp out artificiality in music, reducing the sound to its primal bare bones.
This ability to fluctuate between several musical genres and varying lyrical subject matter makes for interesting listening which elevates them above your standard blues rock fare, as highlighted on the upcoming EP recorded during the band’s stay at their adopted second home of Portugal, at the Estudios sa da Bandeira studios in Porto. Edgey describes the ambiguous sound of the band, recognising their political inclinations, but also expanding on the idea of an overall sound that captures the core elements of us as human beings in a wider society currently frought with tension, poverty and alienation:
“The fact that we’re political is undeniable, but we don’t particularly label ourselves as that. It’s not that we don’t want to be known as being political, but the category seems almost defeating.”
“Folk music is about the community and expressing how people live, how can you ignore social conditions, people suffering, and what our “enemies” are doing to us? Political bands get a special category and are often treated as such, but other artists that sing only about love don’t get categorised as love artists.”
The lead track on the impending EP, slated for a January 8th release date, is the Buffy Sainte-Marie cover ‘Cod’ine‘, reigniting the band’s affiliation with indigenous peoples due to Sainte-Marie having been born on the Piapot Cree Indian reserve in the Qu’Appelle valley, Saskatchewan, Canada. The song depicts a battle with addiction to the opium codeine, with which Sainte-Marie fought after prior usage for a throat infection. Delila’s vocals are appropriately haunting throughout, capturing the required strained and affecting vocal inflection, alternating poignantly between quieter moments and the sustained surges of higher pitch with consummate authority.
The discerning aptitude in ability to vary the pace, tempo and overall mood during each song is highlighted by the Edgey penned ‘Black Cat‘. A stomping bassline grooves alongside Zeppelin-esque lead guitar, intersecting around Delila’s feisty, prowling vocal delivery that at times mimics The Kills and The Dead Weather’s Alison Mosshart for undeniable charismatic attitude, building like a rumbling Doors blues number to the repeated self-pitying shouts during the faux chorus of ‘I’m No Good’.
The early bluesmen influences echo yet louder on the rendition of Delta blues legend Elmore James’ ‘Mean Mistreating Mama‘, providing a female vocal perception without altering the lyrics, in a similar vein to Jack White’s delivery of the White Stripes‘ Dolly Parton cover ‘Jolene‘. It’s immediately apparent that Delila’s voice is an appropriate match for the slide blues styling, with her ability to maintain a soaring vocal note allowing her to inject an almost deliriously wailing, punk infused vocal stamp, cascading through the instrumental sections towards the latter stages of the song. This allows for an impassioned verbal prominence particularly important in correctly portraying the amplified outpouring of emotion evident on the original track.
The latter songs incorporate future singles for the band in the shape of Leadbelly cover ‘Bourgeois Blues‘, complete with the infamous scattering in exaggerated cries of ‘ooh-ooh’, reminiscent of the late American folk and blues icon himself, backed by strong hand claps for a heightened sense of up-tempo rhythm in comparison to the initial recording.
The exhilaratingly nostalgic trip down blues memory lane is complete with a distinctively innovative take on Howlin Wolf’s ‘Moanin’ at Midnight‘, twisting the relatively subdued previous acoustic version into an amped up electric interpretation which drags the 1950’s track kicking and screaming into a virtually unrecognisable 21st century, thrillingly distortive, screeching guitar driven state.
The disbanding of the White Stripes early last year has paved the way for a new breed of potential heirs to the trademark, throwback garage rock that so ensconced itself into alternative western music culture of the early noughties. This EP certainly contains enough evidence that the band are capable of being part of any revival in a sound that particularly endeared itself to the UK, being notoriously affectionate for bands that display such honest, minimalistic authenticity, of which this group can certainly claim rights to.
With a UK tour outlined for spring next year, it will provide those searching for a genuinely varied blues rock sound with the opportunity to see a promising interpretation of a genre which all music is indebted to, in suitably intimate surroundings.