24 September 2010

CD REVIEW: Heavy Glow - The Filth and the Fury (2010, private release)

Sometimes, I get this feeling.  It’s hard to say where it comes from, or what causes it.  But it happens, from time to time, and when it does, there’s only one thing that will cure it.

And no, the answer is not ‘more cowbell.’

I won’t call it a guilty pleasure, because I don’t feel one bit guilty about it, but I have a love for fuzz drenched psychedelia.  Have ever since I was a teenager, discovering the joys of the Amboy Dukes and The Electric Prunes and the MC5 and The Strawberry Alarm Clock and dozens of other bands who churned out amazingly catchy, distortion filled, acid inspired tunes the likes of which no band had ever done before…and that no band would ever come close to crafting again.

The past few years have seen a resurgence in this style of music, even if some bands were, in my opinion, more successful at it than others.  Black Bonzo, Wolfmother...bands like these (and others besides) really did a great job of turning the clock back 40 odd years, and I can’t help but listen to those albums and wonder just how big they’d have been back when this kind of music actually hit top ten lists.  It’s an idle thought, to be sure, but it’s there, in the back of my head.  And let’s face it, it’s not like psychedelia and prog have nothing in common… a lot of psych groups could well be considered proto-prog in a lot of ways.

Today…actually, I’m listening to it again as I am writing this review…I’m taking a look at the 2010 EP release from San Diego retro-rockers Heavy Glow.  It’s called The Filth and The Fury, and a better description of the music couldn’t be had.  It’s dirty, raucous, fuzzy stuff, chock a block with soulful, bluesy vocals, echoed, overdriven guitar, pumping bass and flailing drums all somehow pulling together for a 23 minute trip back to the days of liquid lights, tie dye and flares, and patchouli oil everywhere…without the added effect of potential brain damage as a result of excessive recreational chemical indulgence.

Heavy Glow’s a three piece, with Jared Mullins taking the front on vocals and guitar.  His voice is definitely soulful and drips blues, while his guitar playing is a joy.  On rhythm he thrashes with raw abandon, while his solos cut and burn with white-hot intensity.  Joe Brooks on bass and Dan Kurtz are a hell of a rhythm section; Brooks is a powerful bassist, with a rich tone that cuts through with ease, while Kurtz’s drumming is refreshing in its simplicity and raw abandon.  In other words…if you’re coming into this looking for flights of instrumental fancy and intricacy, best to move along now, because you won’t get it on The Filth and the Fury.  But if you’re looking for a slab of heavy rock, with the emphasis equally on heavy and rock, you might want to stick around a spell.

‘I Almost Prayed’ opens things up with a bang, chopped guitar chords echoing in an empty hall while bass and drums start to set up the rhythm.  We’ve got a slow groove going on, Mullins letting a solo fly before taking the mic.  As Brooks and Kurtz push things along, Mullins sings like a man on a street corner proclaiming the end of the world.  It’s intense, driving stuff that shows that the days of the power trio are far from dead.  It’s simple, but a hell of a lot of fun, and I can’t deny Mullins’s skills on guitar or his vocal presence.

Heavy Glow stretches out a little on ‘Love Ghost,’ which at 5:45 is easily the longest track.  The band kicks into a tight bluesy groove, somehow merging some Allman Brothers and Blue Cheer elements (two bands I never thought of trying to combine) into something unlike either, but evoking both.  Kurtz’s drumming is impressive in its power, pounding out the beat while Mullins rips off lead line after lead line with reckless abandon.  Long, sustained notes fade into feedback, and are pulled back carefully, resolving themselves before slower solo figures fuzz out over a slower beat.

‘Hot Mess’ really isn’t that at all…unless you’re looking at the first part of the title, in which case it might well.  I rather think it simmers rather than boils, but simmering is a kind of heat too, after all.  There are some nice shifts in tempo between vocal and instrumental bits, and Mullins’ guitar sounds huge, echoing in the band’s rehearsal/play space (these tracks were cut with the band playing live) wonderfully well.  The long bending notes in the outro solo are a great touch, adding a healthy dollop of blues to the mix.  We then shift into ‘Bourgeois Baby,’ a slicking, bluesy little number with a much more stripped back feel.  Most of the vocals in the first verse are sung over a drums only backing, processed to sound telephone call like.  It’s not my favourite on The Filth and the Fury, but it’s not a bad number at all.

Things close out with ‘Red July.’  While the other four tracks have been four to the floor garage rockers, here the band stretches out with a bit of a funk groove, with heavy drums, bouncing bass and huge chopped funk chording on guitar.  Chords echo for what seem like weeks, feedback threatens to come in at every moment, and I get images of Zeppelin riding the hell out of Ben E. King’s ‘We’re Gonna Groove’ in some of the backing during the verses.  The song oozes attitude and swagger from every pore, and finishes up this EP in a cool, blues-based way.

It’s not often that I can say that a title really tells you what you’re getting on a CD, but in the case of Heavy Glow’s The Filth and the Fury, what you see on the label is what you get in the tin.  It’s down and dirty acid rock the likes of which fell out of fashion not long after it rose to its ascendancy, and more’s the pity for that.  I won’t close the review off with a cliché, as much as I’d maybe like to.  This isn’t going to be for everybody, but if you listen to your Nuggets albums as much as I do, you will love this more than perhaps might be healthy.

Track Listing:
I Almost Prayed
Love Ghost
Hot Mess
Bourgeois Baby
Red July

Jared Mullins- Vocals & Guitar
Joe Brooks- Bass
Dan Kurtz- Drums

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