Friday, January 30, 2009

The Tell-Tale Hearts

The 60’s garage revival started even before the “new wave/punk” scene, with bands like the Droogs in LA covering and emulating garage bands with a modern twist. Of course, many of the punk bands covered 60’s tunes due to the similar aesthetics commingling the two genres. But it wasn’t until the (very) late 70’s/early 80’s that the modern garage scene really started with the likes of The Chesterfield Kings (NY), The Unclaimed (LA) and the Crawdaddys (San Diego). These three scenes in particular exploded in the mid-80’s and coming out of the wreckage of the Crawdaddies came the Tell-Tale Hearts.

The SD revival scene was based mostly on the white boy r’n’b of bands like the Stones and the Pretty Things and the TTHs were no exception. These cats had the talent and the drive to lead the pack, with their great musicianship and cool attitude. While many of the SD audience believed that bands had to look & sound a particular way and if they deviated at all (even to the point of not wearing suits) they were outcast, many of the bands, like the TTHs were more open to scenes like the LA explosion, which included more garage, psych and punk elements. This endeared the group to many of the LA bands, which – besides their terrific live show and songs, and being nice guys – certainly helped them to expand to the LA audience.

Bomp Records owner, Greg Shaw, saw the band and immediately signed them to his burgeoning Voxx label. This album is the result of that agreement and while the band has never been particularly happy with the production, this has become a legendary garage album – and rightfully so!

All of their elements come out right from the start in “Crawling Back to Me” – farfisa organ, clean guitar with fuzz leads, pounding drums, cool, walking bass lines, maracas galore and snotty vocals! They add harmonica to the mix in “That’s Your Problem” while maintaining the energy and garage-punkiness. Dynamics are highlighted in “She’s Not What Love Is For”, with varying degrees of intensity culminating in a wild guitar solo.

The Hearts were one of the first bands to re-discover the amazing Q65 and this album includes two of their tunes. “From Above” is a cool interpretation with enough uniqueness to keep it from becoming slavishly duplicated. Also, while far from being a ballad, this breaks up the tempo a little and adds another feel to the record.

Opening with a cool bass/guitar trade-off, (You’re a) Dirty Liar" then blasts off with a wall of fuzz into a r’n’b raver! This is certainly one of their wildest and most intense cuts. They do bring it back down for an organ section with a return of the intro trade off (I believe this was stolen from one of the Pebbles selections, but that doesn’t make it any less cool) which then builds back into the fuzz madness! Whew!

A more slinky, drivin’ number is “Me Needing You”, with a slower groove that pulls ya in. The other Q65 masterpiece is the hi-energy riff-rocker, “It Came To Me” which again, the Hearts do justice to – really incredible with its persistent, drivin’ drums and cool playing all around! Back to danceable r’n’b in “Come and Gone” – this is what the TTHs do best! They almost – almost – pull out a ballad in “Forever Alone”, but they can’t do an entire song passively, so the chorus builds to a fuzz rave-up each time! “Keep on Trying” is – comparatively – a little mellower, as well, but comes out as kind of a mid-tempo folk-rocker. Another garage-punker is “Losing Myself”, with more fuzz and plenty of screams! The record ends with “Won’t Need Yours” – not their most extreme, but a cool rocker with plenty of energy.

If you’re interested in the sounds of the 80’s garage revival, this is one of the prime starting points by one of the leaders of the movement! Great stuff through & through!