PEARLS BEFORE SWINE - The Guilty Hearts (Voodoo Rhythm)
The Guilty Hearts are from Los Angeles but sound Central European with a dark, muffled take on garage music crossed with bleak country rock. California Dreamin' be damned; this shit resonates like a late '60s day trip to the Manson Family ranch.

This is their second album - where the first one got to, I'm not really sure - and it has an immediate impact. Not the least of their qualities is an engine room that nails the beat to the floor with drummer Herman K. Senac brimfull of solid feels. Bassist Gabriel Hammond (ex-The Lords of Altamont, The Fuzztones) gets into supreme lockstep on tunes like "3,000 Miles" and the bristling "Glassell Park." The Guilty Hearts mix things up rhythmically with the wrecking ball swing of "Ain't That Good Of a Man" and the bouncing beat of "Don't Wanna Know" both noteworthy examples.

Unsurprisingly, guitars abound. Vocalist Leon Catfish applies barbed wire slide (especially effective on the swooping "Drowning Song") while Edgar Rodriguez lays down deep lines of fuzz.

When these Hearts take a leaf out of the Birthday Party's "Release the Bats" in "Suffer So Easy" it's supremely easy to forget that their hometown's one of the sunniest locales in the world. Catfish gnaws on the lyric like a hellhound with a bone. The perverse beat pounds on and on while the guitars simmer, burn and soar before fading into the background like a dimming star.

Catfish's intonation isn't a million miles from Nick Cave crossed with Waylon Jennings although he's usually buried alive under a solid layer of sound. Brightness isn't a feature of the Hearts' sonic make-up, as if you hadn't already guessed.

The Guilty Hearts aren't afraid to let a song run its course with almost half of these passing the four-minute mark and one (the gruff, feedback-flecked "My Left Hand") clocking in just short of six. Which is well and good because they have something to say in their tales of lost love and lust.

A million miles away from the hair bands of Sunset Strip and sharing territory with The Hangmen, this is homicidal garage with blues-punk tendencies. Recommended.
- The Barman




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