The Heavy: The House That Dirt Built


RIYL: The White Stripes, James Brown, The Rolling Stones

When the Heavy broke with their debut, it truly was Great Vengeance and Furious Fire from every speaker. Listening to that album was like getting kidney punched by the raunchy, drug dusted love child of Curtis Mayfield and the Gallagher brothers. “That Kind of Man” and “Girl” were sheer aural addiction, funky and fun and groovy as hell. It was a smashing debut, chock full of powerful singles…and seemingly no one noticed it at all. The US release in 2008 made no discernible impact, and that is a crying shame.

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Now the Heavy are back with The House That Dirt Built, turning up the volume and the heat by taking their ‘60s and ’70s influence and punching it up with everything from jacked up Bo Diddley beats to Roland Gift-like vocals wrapped in roughly layered, minimalist production. “How You Like Me Now” is full tilt James Brown-esque bravado that shifts into a Mick Jagger-like pleading bridge before ending with a seriously hard-hitting, percussion-driven finale. They also continue to use digital samples to set mood and theme in a way reminiscent of Big Audio Dynamite’s first records. “Short Change Hero” is their Sergio Leone ode while at the same time begs for a Grace Slick vocal.

The most amazing part of this record is the fact that every song makes you sit up and take notice, every track distinct, but the album has an overarching consistency that pulls it all together with consistently dark and driving bass lines, fearless guitars and select horn lines. Throughout, Kelvin Swaby’s vocals chant, scream, croon, plead, growl and demand, always playful and soulfully sexy by turns. The Heavy know how to construct a song to be a hit, short and to the point, catchy without being predictable. This shows up in their hard rocking “What You Want Me To Do?” Two minutes and 38 seconds of grinding desperation and desire. Few bands can take such clear and well known influences and make it sound fresh and new, but The Heavy excel at it. Check this album out. Play it loud, and as David Letterman demanded, play it again! (Counter Records 2009)

The Heavy MySpace page

  

The Black Hollies: Softly Towards the Light


RIYL: The Beatles, Happy Mondays, The Takeover UK

Take the late ’60s Beatles and other British blues/psychedelia, shoot it through with early ’90s Madchester energy, add a sprinkle of indie pop sensibility and you get groovy if none-to-deep third album by the Black Hollies. Depth isn’t really necessary for this kind of album, though. Softly Towards the Light is so indebted to its sources that every track seems immediately recognizable, as if you’d heard these songs long ago sitting in front of your parent’s old hi-fi system as a kid. This immediately begs the question, “Why not listen to the originals, then?” and that is where that those “sprinkles” of modern production and indie introspection provide just enough of something different to make it resonate with today. Much of this can be attributed to Justin Angelo Morley’s breathy vocals, which carry a forceful earnestness that gives Doors-esque lines like “Lead me to the fire burning in your soul” an innocence rather than lustful intent. That is something that seems to be missing on Softly Towards… as British Blues had a earthy carnal quality, and Madchester was hedonistic in many ways, the Black Hollies bring a lighter touch that provides an airy, nothing short of happy feeling that is rare in pop music. Happy is usually relegated to overproduced, kid-smiley, bubblegum pop and not considered appropriate for adults. Here, this positive energy works extremely well with the counterpoint of Nicholas Ferrante’s bombastic drumming. The danceable, get-your-feet-moving pleasure of the Black Hollies can be credited to being caught up in Ferrante’s powerful rhythms that manages to ground them just enough to keep the rest of the band from floating away. The power tracks on the album that bring all of this together are the outstanding “Gloomy Monday Morning” in the number two slot, and “Number Ten Girl” with its soulful, darkly trippy groove.

All in all, Softly Toward the Light is an excellent album by the New Jersey quartet, and demonstrates not just a fidelity toward their sources and craft, but a real passion for making these classic sounds their own true expression. Ernest Jenning Record Co.

The Black Hollies MySpace page

  

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