If you’ve ever been in a band and have poured your guts, sweat, tears & money-you-never-had into recording your music, it’s a lock that you've handed it off to people who never bothered to listen to it. It’s also a cinch that you looked up your favourite labels and learned up front that they only wanted to hear from you if you wanted to buy some merch and not at all if you wanted to send them your demo.
If you’ve ever been in a band, you have poured your guts, sweat, tears & money-you-never-had into playing shows for less than 20 people.
|Heartless Bastards "Arrow"|
In the face of empirical truths 1 & 2, the story of The Heartless Bastards should at least faintly inspire, and infuse us with the very hope that yet a trickle of decent rock n roll will endure. To their credit, they adhered to the golden rule in case #2 - Play your balls off for the dozen people who show up! Story has it that among the few in attendance for one of their free range early gigs was the gangly drummer from The Black Keys, Patrick Carney. He dug them enough to pass their demo to the head nachos at Fat Possum Records and they were on their way to minor league prominence. Proof that although labels will forever discourage renegade demo bombings, any time you plug in for an audience, you might be running into a chance. Take a swing and don’t miss.
The Heartless Bastards started out a Cleveland based roots/bluesy rock trio and have morphed into an Austin based four-piece, winner-winner-classic-rock dinner. Their #4 plate is "Arrow": a stripped down affair that conjures past heroes and yes, bastards, and almost reaches its full potential. "Got to Have Rock n Roll" celebrates something I have long believed in - the medicinal benefits of dosing up on electric guitar & thump. Powerhouse singer Erika Wennerstrom leads her charges on a tour of rock, by way of the Iommi riffage on "Down in the Canyon", "Simple Feeling" a sped up take on The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Late In The Night" sounds like Humble Pie! But the highlight of the album comes when they completely nail the coke baked soul of "Only For You". It's on this track where Spoon's Jim Eno wrings the best from THB by bringing the niche of his own band to the table - each instrument has the space to breathe in a simple groove and EW's voice carries you over the clouds that she sometimes clings too faithfully to. Good stuff.
|The Nerves - they've got that seminal|
but under appreciated vibe down
The Nerves were a three piece California band that release an explosive 4-song single in 1976 and then promptly imploded. This is no sad story as each of them went on to achieve moderate commercial success with the bands they went on to form - Peter Case with The Plimsouls, Paul Collins with The Beat and Jack Lee in the background as songwriter for Blondie and other acts - but The Nerves clearly had some magical unfinished business as evidenced by the excellent, but scruffy One Way Ticket collection from a couple of years ago. Alive Records has tapped that twitch once more this month with the release of The Plimsouls "Beach Town Confidential", a
|The Plimsouls are now, as in '83, proof:|
"that techno-rock you listen to is gutless!"
crackling live set from '83 that captures a plum rock n roll act at their peak. Best known for their stellar single "A Million Miles Away" (featured in the club scene in the totally bitchin Valley Girl), these guys were no one-hit wonder. “Now”, “Magic Touch”, “Oldest Story in the World” are all on par with "Miles" and the band hits every mark here. Peter Case's Lennon-scuffed howl brings the desperation to love songs like “Oldest Story” and a rowdy edge to burners like “How Long Will it Take?” and the cover of The Creation's “Making Time”. Does a band that put out 2 proper studio albums in their heyday warrant 3 live albums from that era? In the case of The Plimsouls, yes. The 80s sucked for studio gloss and their still-stellar Everywhere at Once had a little too much of that plastic sheen on it (though not as damaged by 80s production as some other great rock n roll records, including The Real Kids and The Romantics). The live animal captured on BTC is just that – sweaty full kicks rock n roll to a packed house. I will drink to that. Every time. Peter Case & Paul Collins are doing some tour dates this year, playing Nerves, Plimsouls & Beat songs. This combo has written some killer tunes, see them if you can. BTC is available on iTunes, but you won't get the pink vinyl, bitches!
- And finally, a couple of years ago the lovable losers from Anvil were subject of a great documentary and though we really wanted them to make it big, we didn't really want to listen to Anvil. Here comes a documentary about a failed metal band called Pentagram who were actually pretty good. It looks scary for the right reasons – cartoony devil stuff, evil sludgy music, bulging eyes – and unfortunately scary for the wrong reasons – heroin, crack, dying guys - but the trailer is awesome and you should watch it. It’s coming next month to select theatres.