Generally, when one thinks of German music it’s either industrial synth electronica, along the lines of Kraftwerk or Tangerine Dream; noisy Motorik Krautrock, or trashy Europop and EDM.
Sure there are other exceptions such as Atari Teenage Riot and probably a fair share of metal bands too, but that’s a genre that never really crosses my radar. To even consider The Picturebooks a German band is pretty pointless. In fact, they are the least Teutonic looking and sounding duo imaginable, and the fact that guitarist Fynn Grabke and drummer Philipp Mirtschink are even German at all must simply be an accident of birth.
Everything about them wreaks of the southern USA and the open roads they traverse on their hand-built choppers, like something straight out of Easy Rider. I’ve had the pleasure of catching a few of their London gigs and they are always filled with noisy, gritty desert blues-rock guitar and heavy pounding drums.
Guitar and drums duos are fairly commonplace nowadays, currently led by Royal Blood and Slaves, with plenty more on the indie scene that are establishing themselves such as female duos Dolls, Pearl Harts and Arxx, and up-and-coming Sit Down, although the list goes on and on… but The Picturebooks have certainly carved a solid niche for themselves.
This, their third album, The Hands of Time, actually sounds a little mellower than their previous offerings, more Americana than desert rock, but still with plenty of blues-rock slide and the signature percussion. Like a gritty, whisky and tequila-fuelled version of Delta Rae, a comparison that is further enhanced by the soulful blues a cappella of ‘Horse of Fire’, the album’s opening track, to the appearance of female vocals from The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde on one of the tracks, ‘You Can’t Let Go’ (not to be confused with Can’t Let Go by Caught a Ghost that is used as the theme for the detective series Bosch).
Musically, this album isn’t breaking new ground, but it doesn’t need to because there is enough variety from mellower tracks such as ‘Rain’ to harder rocking tracks such as ‘Lizard’ all performed with grit and sincerity, and most importantly skill. It’s not going to be to everyone’s taste, but I would be very suspicious of any album that is. But if Americana, blues and desert rock are you particular flavours then this offering from The Picturebooks is going to more than satiate your aural tastebuds.
And be sure to catch them live on their upcoming European and UK tour in April and May. Find out more at www.thepicturebooks.com