The Heavy, ‘The Glorious Dead’ – Album Review
Ever since the 1950s, when U.K. music dorks first discovered (and promptly began fetishizing) the primitive bluesmen of the Delta, British bands have long been harvesting the sounds of the American South. Eric Clapton, John Mayall, Spencer Davis, Dusty Springfield, Mick freaking Jagger -- all of them paved the way for the likes of Primal Scream, Adele, Amy Winehouse, and, in this case, the Heavy, who mine Southern rock and soul -- cliches and all -- for their heavy, swampy swagger.
The good news is that their sound is a faithful Xerox collage of Muscle Shoals brass, gospel choir soul, engorged bass and drawn-out vowels. The bad news is that their imitation is so broad and caricatured that it tends to slip into sounding like parody a la the Darkness or Spinal Tap.
But if you can get past the suspicion that the Heavy isn't in on the joke, 'The Glorious Dead' offers up a good time and a fun pillaging of your cool uncle's dusty vinyl sounds.
The hand-me-down Southern revivalism and relentless 'Britain's Got Talent' melisma courtesy of the Heavy's mononymic frontman, Swaby, gets a burst of color from the cinematic production. It's a 16mm projection of a sound, with tracks oscillating between Stax-style blaxpoitation horns and endearingly hokey spook 'em moods straight from the Hammer Films vaults.
Inexplicably, the band also shows a lot of affection for fat, metallic riffs that don't always catch the ear for the right reasons. When the Heavy's axeman punches the distortion pedal, it's a lot less Sly and the Family Stone and a lot more, er, Audioslave.
When the band drops its affected swagger (and those cock-rockin' guitar effects) to show a little romantic weakness in 'Be Mine,' the gorgeous orchestrations and trip-hop drums cement the song and provide a gorgeous texture for what ends up being the bright-point of 'The Glorious Dead.'
While a fine album -- and one you're assured to hear a lot in commercials -- this latest dispatch from the Heavy is a rollocking, bollocking example of what happens when a band gets too cozy with its own sound. 'The Glorious Dead' is indistinguishable from the group's older releases. But when they get out of their comfort zone for 'Be Mine,' the results are fantastic, fully-realized and totally rewind-worthy.
Every Southerner worth his grits knows that the only way to cook soul food is "slow and low." Once the Heavy just learn how to simmer down a bit, maybe their roux will be a bit easier to swallow.