The thing you have to remember with The Pearl Harts is that there are just two of them. Just two. But with the noise they make, and the attitude they exhibit, you could be forgiven for thinking there were six of them. Fans of The White Stripes should both clear space on their shelves for debut album Glitter & Spit, and make way for a new duo to attain rock royalty status.
Again, bear in mind that there are only two members of The Pearl Harts. Kirsty Lowrey is the guitarist and lead vocalist, while Sara Leigh Shaw drives the duo forward on her drums. The guitar riff that introduces opener “Black Blood” is menacing and cool in equal, and it doesn’t let up from there. A clever use of loops allows Kirsty to sound as if she has the backing of one or two other guitarists and a bassist, but the sheer heaviness of the sound makes a bassist irrelevant. To take an example, consider the “The Chief”: it’s a song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Twelve Boar album, or played after “Seven Nation Army” in your local rock club. Sure, a bass would make it a heavier song, give it a real punch, but it hits explosively hard without it, especially in its opening section. Sara’s pounding drums serve to make it a real headbanger, and Kirsty’s guitar work is at its heaviest.
Theirs is not just a big sound. It’s a catchy one too, as exhibited by the refrains of “Lara” and “Lost In Time”. It’s even emotive in places; “Bonfires” and “Lost In Time” are very emotional, almost mournful songs that serve not only to vary the pace of the album, but also tug heavily on the heartstrings. Album closer “Hurt” manages to combine all of the above into the album’s crowning glory. Its emotional punch comes from combining Kirsty’s excellent vocal style with very emotive lyrics:
“You say I’ve hurt you badly/but you don’t know hurt until you’ve worked like I’ve worked/you say you want me back madly/but you don’t want me why can’t you let me be?”
This is delivered in raw, smoky vocals, like Elin Larsson (Blues Pills) in a blues bar, and is underpinned by some seriously impressive guitar work. The riffs produced as the song draws to a close are the best on the album – a serious invitation to full-on wind-milling air guitar and headbanging if ever there was one.
All this stems from the serious graft the duo have put in since their inception. From opening for Blues Pills in 2015, to touring with Skunk Anansie, they’ve made serious impact on audiences across Europe, but they also do everything themselves. They’ve clearly developed their own brand of the world-beating attitude of Skunk Anansie: our sound, our way. They’ve reworked their first single “Skeleton Made Of Diamonds” in the same vein. It’s longer now, with more intricate guitar work, and a less upbeat sound than it has as a single.
The whole album is drawn from this attitude – no longer are they just another upbeat bluesy-rock duo. Theirs is a sound infused with all the bravado of The Runaways, the in-your-face punk of X-Ray Spex, and the big bluesy riffs of Led Zeppelin or Queens of the Stone Age: see “Bless You” or “Living’s Done” for just a taste of this. This attitude is all summed up in Kirsty’s fierce vocals. On “Lost in Time”, she shows off the kind of fragility that folk musician Angharad Drake would be proud of. Most of the time, she shows off influences of the rough-edged angry female singers of the 1970s and ‘80s: Poly Styrene, Joan Jett, et al.
This could be taken as a re-treading of old ground born from an uncertainty about how to sound, that the album is a mish-mash of their influences that never quite manages to be better than the sum of its parts. This conclusion is wrong. The album does lean on the female-led bands of yore. But so what? The influences on The Pearl Harts were and are fantastic bands. The Pearl Harts themselves may not be doing anything absolutely brand new, but they make it sound absolutely brilliant. They make it sound just as big as it ever did – bigger, even. Above all, they make it sound fun. So, taken on that basis, the album is much greater than the sum of its parts, and absolutely destroys the tired notion that “rock is dead”. It’s not as popular as it once was, but when it sounds this good, it’s clearly in rude health.
A very strong debut, and far greater than the sum of its influences, Glitter and Spit shows definitively that The Pearl Harts have a seriously good future ahead of them. Make way, White Stripes. Your time atop the pedestal of best rock duo is over.
Glitter And Spit Track Listing:
01. Black Blood
02. Go Hard
03. The Rush
04. Lara (SL edit)
06. Lost In Time
07. The Chief
08. Skeleton Made Of Diamonds
09. Hit The Bottle
10. Bless You
11. Living’s Done
Run Time: 41 minutes
Release Date: February 23, 2018 (Double Bang Records)
For an awesome intro to this band’s sound, check out the “Hit The Bottle” music video.