by Mike Faloon
Dark Energy 7” EP
“The train won’t stop going/No way to slow down” — “Locomotive Breath” Jethro Tull
Black Wine close their latest EP with a cover of “Locomotive Breath.” It’s a Jethro Tull song but Black Wine drag the sucker to a near-halt, creeping along at a sub-Flipper tempo, openly defying the lyrics, at least that part about not being able to slow down. The tune is asking, pleading, to go faster but Black Wine say, Nay!
So a band from New Jersey has slowed down a prog rock song, what’s the significance? Thanks for asking. Here’s my take. Those of us who dug — and dig — the Ergs still kick around theories regarding the hows and whys of their breakup. One contributing factor was different outlooks on how fast to play. Mike and Joe wanted to push the tempos. Jeff, who plays guitar and sings in Black Wine, didn’t. I have no idea how accurate that theory is but, man, when you hear the flipside to Dark Energy it’s hard to refute. I can picture J and Miranda--bass and drums, respectively--looking at Jeff as they play — Really? This slow? Wait, no, slower? Got it. Wait, slower still? (I can picture it but at the same time I can also imagine they’re just as on board as Jeff. In all fairness, I can also imagine them reading reviews such as this and thinking, Enough about the Ergs already. If you join them in this sentiment, proceed to the fourth paragraph.)
The a-side. Yes, let’s not overlook the original songs. Those come into play on the off chance that the historical significance of this record doesn’t play a large part in your life. (To those who, a) know why the Ergs broke up or, b) don’t care or, c) have simply moved on and are ready to take a record like Dark Energy at face value, I salute you.)
The originals. Right. There are two, “Pick at Pieces” and “Yr Light.” They’re both pretty great. Fine samples of Black Wine’s ability to revisit and reshape sounds of the ‘90s, a grunge/indie rock/indie pop hybrid that consistently eclipses the bands from whom they seemingly draw their influences. (I never need to hear another Screaming Trees or Solomon Grundy or Tad record again, but if any of those combos played a role in shaping the Black Wine sound, then I thank them. Dinosaur Jr. might be a more apt comparison but I'd take Black Wine over them too.) A lot of that is rooted in the fact that Jeff can wail and solo and shred—pick your favorite verb that conveys a sense of playing really incredibly, “how’s he do that?” well without succumbing to pinhead-at-the-guitar-store-showing-off-how-many-scales-he-knows.
And just to be clear: I find the Jethro Tull cover fascinating but I’d much rather listen to “Pick at Pieces” and “Yr Light.” And I suggest you join me in putting Black Wine on your list of bands to follow.
PS Joe from the Ergs can do no wrong.