Mack: Potter returns to ‘Beat’ rootsWritten by Jason Mack | | email@example.com
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, “The Lion the Beast the Beat.”
On their previous self-titled album, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals showcased a slight shift in the direction of mainstream pop. While the new album maintains some pop sensibility, thankfully it sees the band getting back to its jam rock roots. They take risks by experimenting with a plethora of genres, but at the core of every song is pure rock.
Potter took a step toward notoriety in 2010 with the single “Paris (Ooh La La)” and continued that growth with headlining gigs at several festivals last summer. She has a chance to climb even further with Dan Auerbach’s influence on the single “Never Back Down.” The Black Keys’ mastermind is somehow even better at producing than performing. He lends an element of funk to the band’s classic rock sound, which was heavily influenced by a Casio keyboard from the ’80s Potter found in Auerbach’s Nashville studio. They wrote the song within 45 minutes of arriving at the studio.
Potter keeps the funk going on “Roulette,” which sounds like it belongs on Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors.” The song is about striking out romantically with lines like, “I’m playing roulette, but the wheel don’t love me at all. I’m playing roulette and my heart is the tumbling ball. Yeah the wheel turns me over again. I’m a helpless soul with a helpless hand. My heart is growing deeper in debt. That’s what I get when I play.”
The album opens with the title track, “The Lion the Beast the Beat,” an up-tempo jam using cliche lyrics to relate a lion’s heart to the beat of music. Aside from the sub-par lyrics, the track is classic Potter with a progressive beat.
Potter keeps the pace going on “Turntable.” Just like her song “Sugar,” she seems to rock the hardest on tracks laced with sexual innuendo such as “Shut your mouth and put your hands on my hi-fi,” and the chorus “I will be your record, and you will be my turntable. I’m your amplifier, and you’re my RCA cable. Jump up, down, up, down, down, down baby up. One kiss and I’m disabled.” The reference to turntables is fitting since she sounds like she came straight out of the age of vinyl.
Potter is proficient at more than just rock. She crosses seamlessly into other genres and could make a killing in the country industry. She scored a big country hit last year with current tour mate Kenny Chesney on his duet “You and Tequila” last year. He returned the favor on her latest album with guest vocals on a bonus version of “Stars,” which has the potential to climb the country charts.
Whether it’s the album version or the bonus track with Chesney, “Stars” is the most emotionally impactful song Potter has ever done, even more than “Apologies.” Anyone interested in getting a better feel for Potter should check out her episode of “Storytellers” on VH1.com where she breaks down while explaining the song is about a close friend she lost.
“Loneliest Soul” starts out really weird with what sounds like echoed meows, which are sung throughout, but the song improves quickly and is catchy despite the oddity.
The waltzy “Timekeeper” is a high point of the album and sounds like a cross between CCR and the Shins. Just like John Mayer’s “Stop This Train” it discusses the feeling of hopelessness as time passes you by.
Grace Potter and The Nocturnals is one of few true rock bands around in a scene failed with panderers. “The Lion The Beast The Beat” shows these artists are capable of branching out but determined to stay true to themselves.
**** out of 5