The Black Rabbits

Hypno Switch

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As befits a band mentored and produced by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers alumni Stan Lynch and Billy Chapin, the Black Rabbits have something of a classic rock sound on their debut full-length CD Hypno Switch. Actually, though, Lynch and Chapin cast back before Petty for their production approach, cutting and mixing the music as if they were aiming at AM radio in the late 1960s. That means the instrumentalists (Jetson Black on guitar, his brother Skyler Black on drums, Kim Drakeley on keyboards, and Reah Smith on bass) are recorded in a clean and unadorned manner, and then placed well below Jetson Black's upfront vocals. The sound has a Nuggets-like garage rock quality, which is appropriate to the band's simple songs; it is also suggestive of other relatively fundamentalist, less-is-more outfits like the Velvet Underground, the Modern Lovers, and, later on, the Violent Femmes. Black's prominent singing places a burden on him in terms of the vocals themselves and the lyrics, and he lives up to the challenges without doing too much. He has an enthusiastic if limited instrument, and he writes simple rock poetry on (naturally) the subject of romantic travails; the words themselves might not look like much on the page, but they get their points across, and they lie well over the music, with repeats as necessary. And there are plenty of wordless sounds that are just as important. Even when the tempos slow and the instrumentation is stripped back for ballads like "Painter, Poet, Prophet, Priest" and "So Long, Sophia," Black and his band convey feelings musically without getting too much meaning in the way. Hypno Switch aims for a timeless rock sound, unlike much of the contemporary alternative scene, and achieves it in spades.

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