Heartless Bastards Stairs and Elevators

[Fat Possum; 2005]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: rock and roll music
Others: Pretenders, PJ Harvey, The Gits

Hard rock is a tricky animal. It's tied to simplicity and earnestness, but, as a result of this, it is forced to be more competitive than most genres to stay afloat. The elements are basic, but it seems all that makes a hard rock act such as White Stripes have an edge over other similar groups is their candy cane packaging. Don't get me wrong -- they've got a lot going for them musically. And I'm sure a lot of touring and playing their hearts out had some part in establishing their wide rep.

But I fear for Heartless Bastards. They're a new band -- so who knows what'll happen -- but they're missing the gimmick that will get them the sizable audience they deserve. Even in the garage bracket I fear they'd be ignored. Hell, I don't even know if the garage boom is dead or not. I know pop punk, nu-metal and hip-hop are pretty huge.

Despite my ignorance over the shifting of these trends, I don't think I'm out of it when I say there are still a lot of folks out there looking for some good old hard rockin' fun. They're the people pumping Zeppelin, Mountain, and Sabbath out of their car stereos. These people responded to White Stripes and The Foo Fighters, and they'd surely dig Heartless Bastards. They've got a fine, attention-getting name, save the fact that they aren't color-coded or Nirvana-related. And from the so-big-it-swallows-you opener on, Stairs and Elevators kills with impunity.

Singer Erika Wennerstrom has a great set of throat ripping pipes that are as piercing and punk as they are classic sounding. She's the major selling point of the band. The sound production is raw and surging, careening out of the speakers and making your limbs quake helplessly. While her back-up band and her own guitar work are essentially by-the-numbers, the sheer authority of every line she bellows maintains the vitality of the recording.

I'm hoping that this band finds their niche on commercial radio and they make a killing. There is nothing "indie" about this raging, sweaty behemoth of a record. This is the hard rock candy us bar band-weary rock and roll junkies have been waiting for.

1. Gray
2. Onions
3. New Resolutions
4. My Maker
5. Runnin'
6. Autonomy
7. Pass and Fail
8. The Will Song
9. Swamp Song
10. Done Got Old
11. Piano Song
12. Lazy

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