As a self-professed anglophile and fiancee to one very cheeky Brit, I certainly appreciate the many aspects of our wry, Founding Fathers. From stodgy meals, statuesque cathedrals and sublime music, England is a nation enriched in all aspects: cuisine, culture and most importantly, creativity.
My most recent English example? Indie/blues/rock/soul/funk mash-up musicians known as The Heavy.
Hailing from Britain’s rain-sopped turf are The Heavy; four very talented lads who emerged onto the music scene circa early 2000s. Their most notable song, “How You Like Me Now?” has been featured in countless adverts, movies and video game trailers (and was the first tune that sparked my fan frenzy).
The Heavy reeks of rawness. They’re uncut and unparalleled artists who perform as well at gigs as they do on VEVO. I would know; I’ve frequented three of their concerts within the past two years, and have yet to be disappointed.
While The Heavy is relatively under-the-radar, their undeniable talent is worthy of high accolade. Take a peek at the ghoulish video for their new single, “Can’t Play Dead,” and let us know your take on this British, bass-heavy/bad-ass band.
It might feel like an eternity since lead singer Skye Edwards left Morcheeba (2003), leaving the brothers Godfrey to experiment on a couple of albums with different guest vocalists. But with Morcheeba’s latest, Blood Like Lemonade, Edwards has returned and it’s like the band hasn’t missed a beat – i.e., the reincarnation of Morcheeba as we knew it is back and better than ever. The trippy, bluesy electronica that put Morcheeba on the map is still mostly the same, but the songs on Blood Like Lemonade are slickly produced and, well, just damn good. Edwards’ voice is plain dreamy, and these songs are the perfect vehicle for that voice to shine. Most of the tracks are the band’s signature marriage of melody and electronica, as in “Crimson,” the title track and “Recipe For Disaster.”
But there are interesting tracks on here that bring Blood Like Lemonade to another level. The acoustic-guitar-with-beat-infused “Even Though”; the stunning guitar/vocal “I Am the Spring”; and the powerful closing anthem “Beat of the Drum.” Oh, and there’s also the uber-funky pseudo-instrumental, “Cut to the Bass,” which is probably best enjoyed in a very loud, dark, club. If you were already a fan or Morcheeba, you won’t find much wrong with this effort – if you weren’t, it’s the kind of genre-defying albums that just about anyone will like. (Pias America 2010)
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.
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)