Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Heavy - Great Vengeance & Furious Fire and The House That Dirt Built

Great Vengeance and Furious Fire

I’ve raved about this new-soul cats before, but never got around to talking about their first two albums. This, their debut, starts out with a smoldering, slow groove on the oddly-titled “Brukpocket’s Lament” featuring just bass, minimal drums and vocals and a touch of guitar until a reverb-explosion introduces a cool solo. “Coleen” showcases the band’s real strengths though – Curtis Mayfield soul vocals, pounding drums (interesting production work here to make these stand out), nice horn lines and sweet female backup singing. The fuzz guitar on the ending is damn fierce, as well.

The group uses hip-hop influenced sampling here & there – sometimes just a brief snippet, sometimes as the basis for a song. Just a touch of a 50’s tune before “Set Me Free”, a smooth, danceable soul number that moves into “That Kind of Man”, reminiscent of an upbeat “Freddy’s Dead” (in fact, I’m wondering if that’s a sample there or simply the band emulating it). More laid back is “Doing Fine”, a slow, quiet, soul ballad that moves into a bit of between-song noise before the Spenser Davis/”I’m a Man” steal that makes up the rockin’ “Dignity”, which also, bizarrely, reminds me a bit of the Eagles of Death Metal – guess it uses a rhythm similar to something they would do.

A bit less intense, but still with an insistent beat, “Our Special Place” is a sweet love song that is balanced out by the extended pick-up line that is “Girl” – basically spoken word on top of a repeating bass & drum line. The whole group comes bashing back in for “In the Morning”, one of the best rock’n’soul numbers – super groove, great melody, and all-around good time! The record closes with a moody, piano ballad, “Who Needs the Sunshine?” featuring tremelo’d guitar and heartfelt vocals. Another short sample of  the doo-wop number “Forever My Darling” and they’re gone!

The House that Dirt Built

Beginning with a trailer from a horror movie this album blasts out from the gate with a stupendous garage-rocker, “Oh No! Not You Again!!” – organ-fueled with pumpin’, poundin’ drums, it’s over before ya know it and you’re sorry it is! Their hit from this record is the Curtis Mayfield/James Brown-ish soul/funk of “How You Like Me Now?”, which has appeared on commercials and TV shows and raised their profile considerably.

One of their more obvious samples is an abbreviated line from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “Alligator Wine” that is used as the basis for “Sixteen”, a tribute to jail bait - salacious and groovy and damn infectious. “Short Change Hero” is a modern spaghetti western with a beat and a truly catchy chorus. A bit heavier is “No Time” with another memorable chorus of quickly repeated lines, another stompin’ rhythm and a cool, grungey guitar line. Built around a neat, descending riff, “Long Way From Home” is a well-crafted tune with plenty of melody  and neat changes. The lads take a swing at reggae in “Cause For Alarm”, a bit in like Althea & Donna to these ears – nice.

“Love Like That” sounds like a low-fi lark – kinda goofy, but still kinda cool. Then, in a major turnabout, like a dinosaur pacing the room, we get “What You Want Me To Do?”, a vicious and fuzz-drenched monster. There is a bit of a hip-hop feel here, as well, but not so much as to be obnoxious – still plenty of rock’n’roll attitude!

As with the debut, they close with a ballad, though “Stuck” is one of their softer moments, complete with strings added. Good pop, but not as hot as their upbeat numbers – a quiet ending to a fairly raucous album.

Totally dig these cats’ new soul sounds and highly recommend any & all of their offerings. They’re plenty of fun live, as well!