The Heavy’s capacity for rabble-rousing is a potent strength.
Paul Clarke 2012-08-20
Few British bands since Give Out But Don’t Give Up-era Primal Scream have imitated Southern US rock as slavishly as The Heavy – and even the Glaswegians slapping a Confederate flag on the cover couldn’t sell Lynyrd Skynyrd riffs and Stax horns back to the land they borrowed them from.
But these boys from Bath have seen their How You Like Me Now? single, from 2009’s The House That Dirt Built album go gold stateside and appear on TV shows like Entourage. They had David Letterman calling for an encore when they performed on his show. The single also won them some less-welcome fans: Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich used it at a campaign rally, earning him a cease-and-desist order and the band’s damning derision.
The Tea Party darling might have been attracted by the fact The Heavy’s standard ingredients of swampy rock, humid soul and sweaty funk are all pretty traditional, but the way they combine them on their third album is far from conservative.
Just My Luck begins as thrashing MC5-style scuzz before erupting into mariachi horns, whilst Blood Dirt Don’t Stop could serve as a slow dance at a 1950s high school prom until it’s gatecrashed by sozzled guitars. The Lonesome Road, meanwhile, makes a decent stab at Tom Waits’ ramshackle blues, with singer Kelvin Swaby’s soulful tonsils replacing Waits’ guttural muttering.
They do have, however, a politician’s talent for giving people - specifically, American people - exactly what they want to hear. Though The House That Dirt Built’s occasional ska influences betrayed The Heavy’s British roots, here the country-tinged Curse Me Good sounds tailor-made for Midwestern radio.
And the call-and-response chorus and swaggering riffs of first single What Makes a Good Man? are already soundtracking a beer commercial there; tracks like Same Ol’ and Don’t Say Nothing follow the same formula, evoking scenes of clinking bottles in some trucker’s bar.
They sometimes feel as second-hand as The Black Crowes, but The Heavy’s capacity for rabble-rousing is a potent strength, which in music – if not always politics – isn’t necessarily a bad thing.