Lana Del Rey has stirred an unwinnable and moot debate about “authentic” artists. Does it matter who does the manufacturing if you don’t like the music? There’s a similar rift emerging in garageland over Nashville’s grown-up Wednesday Addamses, the Black Belles.
The spooky-sexy quartet gained notoriety in 2011 as a novelty band backing Stephen Colbert on his “Charlene II (I’m Over You)” single, and ended the year with a gem of a debut LP. Their label, Third Man Records, has cleverly kept the group’s background a mystery—frontwoman and songwriter Olivia Jean may have migrated from Detroit, and the band briefly featured Erin Belle, a Nashville burlesque model. We don’t know much more.
The Belles’ Victorian Halloween getups were familiar before they began playing live officially in September, and that’s aroused suspicions. The likes of the U.K.’s Guardian are writing about the band as if Jack White was the puppeteer behind the whole rockin’ coven—garage rock has long been fertile ground for high-concept girl groups. Online conspiracy nuts can’t help wondering if it was a Belle who hastened the end of White’s marriage.
White’s fingerprints are all over the stormy production on the band’s self-titled album. He directed videos for the band’s early singles, too. The proto-metal beats and thunderous guitar lines echo the White Stripes on “Leave You With a Letter” and “Pushing Up Daisies.” But over 11 tunes, the Belles stake out a more macabre territory. Svengali waiting in the wings or not, these witches have their own spells to cast.