It’s only natural that the debut album of a former covers band, exploring the catalogue of James Brown and Led Zeppelin, would be such a potent cocktail. When the cool crème of soul and hard liquor of punk unite, the mixture inevitably curdles. For something with calmer soul influences, such as Otis Redding and Nina Simone, it’s undeniably abrasive.
Machine-gun snare fills dominate the fittingly titled ‘Heartbreaker’, while ‘Be Mine’ comes to a chaotic close with screeches of “be mine, baby”, as the band accelerates. This concoction is squeezed into a garage rock-style production, comparable to the White Stripes’ signature roughness. It is no wonder that Jack White has praised the quartet.
As such an entanglement, it seems that the band have no plan, channeling the purest ecstasy, anger and sorrow. Frontwoman Brittany Howard’s voice sounds naturally pained.
Boys & Girls is a mutation. It’s dirty soul. In theory, it’s a formula that just shouldn’t work. While it won’t please everybody, Alabama Shakes have created something that must be heard to be understood. For that alone, this is an essential listen.