Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Album Review - The HeavyThe House That Dirt Built

This review is part of the "Over Flow" Review Series. For various reasons these past reviews were not published anywhere else. I am tagging them as "Overflow Reviews" and may add some extra information before or after if needed but will keep the ratings and reviews just as I originally wrote them. Enjoy:

The Heavy
The House That Dirt Built

** out of *****

The lines between imitation, tribute, and flat rip-off have never been cloudier in music; understandably people will argue both sides.  On one hand the argument is simply that music is music, listen and enjoy.  On the other people want respect for the original artists and ideas; for past efforts to inspire not be repackaged and sold.  Hip-Hop has dealt with this for years, and covers have always been part of Rock and Roll, this summer even found Kid Rock’s huge hit mashing up two classics.  The Heavy are treading in all of these waters.

It rings a bit stale on The House That Dirt Built, the group’s sophomore release.  The minute “Sixteen” starts the ghost of Screaming Jay Hawkins should be foaming at the mouth.   Taking the excellent “I Put A Spell On You” and replacing Screaming Jay’s classic delivery with Kelvin Swaby’s non-descript vocals and lyrics isn’t innovative or exciting, it’s a downgrade.  That is the problem in the end; if the lead vocals were inventive/astounding the group could better get away with “borrowing” from the likes of Third Guitar, but Swaby is tame in the front man role not a whirlwind MC making these tributes his own.   

Raw drums and a baritone sax spice things up on the Tom Waits styled hard rocker “Oh No! Not You Again!!” and “Short Change Hero” would be easily confused for a Gnarls Barkley deep cut but The House That Dirt Built ends up as a collage of beats, samples, riffs, experiments, all easily digested but not that sonically sustaining.   

More thoughts, tunes videos, and a full length documentary after the jump
This is a weird album to review...it is not overly bad, but taking some classic tracks and making them your own should be at least as engaging as the originals, and if they aren't perhaps you should come up with some originals that are inspired by the great ones of yesteryear.

Maybe I am being too hard on the group with the 2 stars out of 5, but if a Hip Hop act took just the straight beat of "I Put A Spell On You", didn't change it and put fourth that vocal effort they would be laughed at...because The Heavy are a rock band should it be different?  They should have just covered it straight-up.  Anyway, hear for yourself:

Screaming Jay Hawkins:

Maybe I just love Screaming Jay too much...but man that still is awesome.
Letterman for what it's worth did something i have never seen before when this group played for him live...he gave them an encore.

I will admit they pull this whole style off better live (that bass line is boosh) but I still think Swaby could use some work.

Quick side note...since I mentioned him...if you want to watch a wild "documentary" and got the time, this Screaming Jay shit is unreal.  We are talking Taping Grenades in MF's mouths!  Check the full thing out here:

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