'Happiness Bastards' by the Black Crowes: Track-by-track analysis

The group's new album was released on March 15, 2024.
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It has been a bit, hasn't it, Black Crowes fans? Not since 2009 has the band produced a studio album of original music. Chris and Rich Robinson and whoever else they have had along the way, most notably Sven Pipien, have been on the outs more than the ins over the last two decades, but every time they have decided to give the world music, they have not disappointed.

But would they have a lot of rust after 15 years of no full-length record? The Black Crowes released an EP in 2022 called 1972, but that was a record of covers. Sure, that sounded excellent, but there is a huge difference between original music and basically being a glorified bar band. The group is better than that.

The new album is titled Happiness Bastards. There are 10 tracks in total with most in the three-minute range. Here is an initial reaction to a first listen to each song.

Breaking down each track from the Black Crowes' Happiness Bastards

"Beside Manners"

The record will immediately grab you without pretense with an immediate rush of guitar. This actually helps set the tone for the track and there is no rust. The band is ready to rock and sound excellent. There is a bit of resemblance to the band in the Commitments but that is not a bad thing.

"Rats and Clowns"

Due to the guitar solo a bit over midway through, the song is a clear homage to the 1970s. While Chris Robinson's voice is a great fit for the Black Crowes, the very last note of the track is a bit overdone. The up-tempo song would have been better of better off without it.

"Cross Your Fingers"

This was one of the first three songs teased before the album was released. The problem is the breakdown doesn't seem like something the Black Crowes would normally do and feels out of place (and sounds like part of the tune of the theme song for the show Law and Order). Rich Robinson is fantastic on the track, though. The track could have been a minute less long and would have been slightly improved.

"Wanting and Waiting"

Awesome. That is only one way to describe this classic Black Crowes tune. The track would have fit on their amazing debut record (think "Jealous Again" without being a direct rip-off of that bit of heaven) and that might be the highest praise a song from Happiness Bastards can receive.

"Wilted Rose (featuring Lainey Wilson)"

Wilson's popularity appears to have exploded recently, but admittedly I do not know her music. The backup she adds on this track is fine, but the song is strong enough to hold up without the band getting help. The first real ballad on the record oozes with blues and while it is not "She Talks to Angels" (what is?), it's still worth a listen.

"Dirty Cold Sun"

Organ! Chris Robinson then does his best Mick Jagger impression. And then the choir comes in. Group all that with a thunderous rhythm section and you can say, "Winner!"

"Bleed It Dry"

This track is full blues. The group has always harkened back to early Rolling Stones as much as pure Southern Rock and this seems like something Jagger and his boys would love. Not as tight as the band's early records, but that works fine (and is somewhat expected) as we are now 34 years removed from Shake Your Money Maker.

"Flesh Wound"

Rich Robinson rules this track which shares a resemblance to 1960s Kinks. Chris Robinson's vocals are what separates the track, however, as Chris and Ray Davies sound nothing alike. A bit of a third of the way through you will notice something akin to "Mother's Little Helper," however.

"Follow the Moon"

Moving away from indirect Rolling Stones and Kinks homages, this track is pure Black Crowes. Big bass, a choir, and Chris Robinson meshing perfectly. If you hung around for this long into the album, you will be pleased.

"Kindred Friend"

There is something a bit like Neil Diamond about this tune mixed with acoustic Oasis. If that sounds weird, at least the track doesn't. A slower track to end the record might have been done thousands of times before, but that does not mean this song is bad. It isn't, but it's probably the ninth-best song on the record.

That is the entire album at a relatively short 38 minutes. Was 15 years worth of waiting to stay a fan? Definitely. Let's just hope the Black Crowes don't wait another 15 years for new original music, though if they do, "Kindred Friend" sure felt like a goodbye.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10 (and worth you purchasing on vinyl)

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