Album Reviews: 22-20s by 22-20sOn their self-titled full-length debut, the 22-20s craft a more traditional, and more British, take on blues-inflected rock than Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or the White Stripes, two of the bands most often mentioned when describing this young, prolifically touring band. 22-20s reveals a group far less trippy than BRMC and not nearly as fiery and arty as the Stripes; they're actually more like the British equivalent of blues-rock standard-bearers such as the Black Keys. Shades of the Yardbirds color the revved-up guitars and harmonicas on "Devil in Me," while the band's first single, "Such a Fool," updates the dour, spare sound of Eric Burdon & the Animals only slightly.
That the 22-20s reach back to the admittedly rich tradition of British blues isn't a problem; what's troublesome is that the band doesn't bring much inspiration to it. Songs like "22 Days" and "I'm the One" feel forced and blustery, and make heartache sound downright boring. Some of the bluesier cuts are more convincing; the threatening glint in Martin Trimble's voice on "Why Don't You Do It for Me?" invests the song with more emotion and personality, and "Hold On" has a nicely swampy swagger. However, the band members never sound totally comfortable with this sound, no matter how much they appreciate its origins. The smooth, atmospheric production adds to this feeling, robbing the 22-20s of the immediacy they had on the 05-03 EP.
As the album unfolds, the band tries on other sounds for size, with varying degrees of success: "Friends" comes across as a lukewarm Dylan impersonation, complete with nasal vocals that don't appear anywhere else on the album. On the other hand, the country-rock pastiche of "Baby, You're Not in Love" -- which sounds oddly like CCR's "Who'll Stop the Rain" -- ends up being one of 22-20s' highlights. Likewise, "Shoot Your Gun," a big, anthemic ballad with only a hint of blues, is another strong moment. Overall, the album is more competent than distinctive; maybe next time, the 22-20s will show more depth and personality. - Heather Phares, All Music Guide
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