Friday, March 13, 2009

Go Tell It On the Bastard


Simple is more direct. Cleaner is more pure. Louder is more rocking.

Heartless Bastards hide nothing in the way that they are a pure and essential rock act. They understand the fundamentals and would rather you note where their inspiration comes from than comment on the production quality of the albums they put out. This is both a positive and a detriment to the band. In many regards their nonchalance makes them one of the ‘toughest’ acts around. They never hesitate to rip a sweltering riff or fuzz out a crescendo to add to the power and might of their sound. The problem comes when you have all that raw energy and you record it as if you were a garage band trying to make do until the day comes that you can afford to spend the time and money on a proper album.

The Mountain once again finds Heartless Bastards practicing their now perfected art of rock n’ roll. It is refreshing to hear bands that refuse to give into the hype or try to fit the mold of a movement, imitating what other bands do well rather than finding the songs and sounds on their own. Bastards are on the Fat Possum label, which instantly gives them the denotation as a southern, swampy sounding rock outfit. Which is correct. But where they differ from the likes of say North Mississippi Allstars is in their ability to write concise 3min rock tracks that do not waver, jam or rely on solos to fill the void in inability of craftsmanship, a more southern Black Keys if you will. This album reunites fans with the band the way they have always felt, just with some more growth in instrumentation. Banjos, slide guitars, mandolin etc. It gives a robust feel to the songs, an extra layer added that washes the sounds and curves the listener to note the shifts in the songs rather than hear the whiteness of production quality.

In all, this band is one of many that rests its fate on the vocal abilities of their lead. Erika Wennerstrom’s voice makes everything possible for this ensemble. Her voice is mesmerizing. I often steer clear of direct correlations when reviewing albums as I am of the belief that to describe something it most successfully is to do so in its own regards, not in reference to comparables. But fuck it, I’ve been wanting to toss out these comps since I first spun this album.

Think of this if you want to know what Heartless Bastards the Mountain sounds like:

Fiona Apple + Billy Holiday x Black Mountain(Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks + Sleater Kinney) ^ Led Zeppelin

If that doesn’t make you give this album a shot, I simply do not know what will.

Standout tracks: Be So Happy, Nothing Seems the Same and Sway.

Out At Sea - Hearless Bastards, from The Mountain:

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