The Heavy – The House That Dirt Built (Counter)
With a Ronseal title like The House That Dirt Built, the listener would expect some serious scuzz, some dusty, taut rock ‘n’ roll, an erring on the side of well-greased punk. We get that, with bells on, we get that. But we also get a confusing amount of genre-hopping. So confusing and, in fact, wilful is that hopping that it goes some way to undermining the potential impact of the album in general. If you’re not sure that your navigator’s got the map the right way up, can you expect a pleasant voyage?
So. When The Heavy tackle their natural targets, it’s a bracing and involving listen, like being shaken awake. The album itself kicks off a house-of-horror-ish excerpt from some old film or other, all portentous, campy warnings not to tread any further… then, with reasonable aplomb, the band launch Oh No! Not You Again!, the lead single. It’s a refined, soulful punk-blues meld of vocals shrieked into a bean tin and guitars jostling for supremacy with squelching sax – a sonic triumph and a little exhilaration to be going on with. Elsewhere, similar set-ups provide similar results – the overlong No Time in particular a high-concept smash-along.
But the blues mutates on this album. It slows down and funks up on How You Like Me Now?, it waltzes on Sixteen, and it totally softens into 50s pastiche on Love Like That. By no means is it a bad thing to stretch your legs on an album, but The Heavy try too much to appear multi-headed. Excelling in some areas while falling down in others gives the impression that our guides through the record are not at all comfortable. Tellingly, they are at their most comfortable when they do very little. That single, Oh No! Not You Again! is by a very long way the strongest song here, and they would have done better to omit the more far-reaching elements. The closing track, named Stuck, is a perfect metaphor for the album and displays The Heavy’s need to contextualise, to minimise. It’s fine to be ambitious, it honestly and truly and nobly is, but the results have to prove worthy of the time spent producing them.
This is out via Counter (excellent job, folks, your parcels are fast beoming my favourites) in early August or something, I left the press release at home… more here.