Founded in Gütersloh, Germany in 2009, The Picturebooks released their first two albums as a garage rock three, with the departure of Tim Bohlmann, the band turned to a pared back bluesy rock duo. Comprising of Philipp Mirtschink on percussion (no cymbals) Fynn Grabke (son of German skateboarding champion Claus Grabke) guitar and vocals who claims to play his instrument based on feeling and admits that he cannot play any chords. This doesn’t sound like an act that blew people’s minds supporting Clutch. But they certainly did. Relentless touring for three years saw the friends return to their chopper garage and adjacent studio to write and experiment with the addition of piano, tubular bells and handcrafted percussion instruments for The Hands Of Time. Managed and produced by Claus, then mastered by Brian Lucey at Magic Garden Mastering (Biffy Clyro, Marilyn Manson, The Black Keys, Ghost, Royal Blood) The sound is unmistakably The Picturebooks, but a little more mature, but not too refined. The addition of guest vocalist Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) is a trump card.
Horse Of Fire introduces the album, the story of a man and his friend unfolds sings Grabke plaintively in an acapella with hints of bluegrass that would not feel out of place in an endearing chain gang movie. The first single released Howling Wolf is up next and is more in keeping with what would be expected with its cowboy groove and mandolin.
“The lyrics to ‘Howling Wolf’ say it all,” declares frontman Fynn Grabke. “‘I was raised a someone guitar in hand – leaving this small town into foreign land’. That´s what our lives are all about. Touring our asses off, coming to your town howling like wolves!”
Upbeat dirty blues feels continue with the harmonica led Like My World Explodes. The title track ups the pace and demonstrates the skill of the Picturebooks
“This video that is about being in the present, being in the now and believing in yourself. It features people celebrating that with us, friends from LA who believed in us from day one. Pro Skater Ray Barbee played our first ever show in the US with us, Dennis Lyxzen gave us a chance by having us open for his band The International Noise Conspiracy which was our first bigger show, Imogen Lehtonen was on our first cover and in three of our music videos… Everyone in this video was a huge help along the way and Los Angeles, our second home, where all of this was filmed shaped this band in many ways.”
Check it out here
The Day The Thunder Arrives gives out rhythmical rock ‘n roll swagger and sleaze with a fun lo-fi guitar outro before the tempo increases for the galloping Electric Nights which wouldn’t seem out of place on a David Lynch soundtrack
“’Electric Nights’ is about getting lost and driving endless miles through endless nights without any purpose or destination other than simply losing yourself and finding the truth in the present instead. We’ve all been there and once we fixed the theme, the music came naturally. We wrote and recorded the song in less than a day.”
Rain goes full Ennio Morricone complete with cowboy whistles as Grabke laments “have you heard the rain will come? To wash away the things we’ve done…” The gritty duet You Can’t Let Go (featuring the inimitable Chrissie Hynde) is a classy drawling Southern rock style ballad that the duo invited her to sing on having previously met at a soundcheck in Saint-Tropez.
“She heard us play and was blown away, we talked a lot that day and she gave us her number and told us to call if we ever need help in any way. When we wrote ‘You Can’t Let Go’ we knew we wanted to try something new, like having a guest appearance,” Grabke says. “Chrissie was our first choice, of course. We recorded it, sent her the song, and a few days later she recorded her part in London. We feel so honoured and blessed to have Chrissie on board. She is our favourite singer and Pretenders are one of our most favourite bands of all time.”
Lizard is an uptempo shimmy of a garage/ surf rock number with a more old-school The Picturebooks vibe, which gave me the urge to dance like a go-go while Tell Me Lies allows a breather of sorts with its melancholy and sweet harmonies.
The Rising Fall lulls you with a false sense of security, until the first line “every once in a while, I get this aching thought, that a desperate child is going to kill us all.” Darkly brooding, with a defiantly bombastic build. This is the sound of progress, less primitive and a little more polished but still The Picturebooks.
The Hands of Time track listing:
- Horse Of Fire
- Howling Wolf
- Like My World Explodes
- The Hands Of Time
- The Day The Thunder Arrives
- Electric Nights
- You Can’t Let Go (feat. Chrissie Hynde)
- Tell Me Lies
- The Rising Fall
The Hands of Time was released on March 8th and can be purchased here
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