For most of my adult life I have worked at record stores. One can only listen to the Beatles so many times (though I'm testing that statement everyday). So, with whim on my side I'll often throw on an unfamiliar album, generally intrigued by the cover, a choice record label, or a mention from a trustworthy friend. About two years ago I threw on the Heartless Bastards' second full-length, All This Time. Most of the time, these "whim" albums fade into the background of work; though, sometimes they are so bad they turn an enjoyable job into actual "work" and get tossed in the recycle bin to save future listeners. Not so the Bastards. Within the first seven seconds of the album, I was a fan. The record demanded attention and sounded like the salvation of rock 'n' roll - great tones, big guitars, smart lyrics, a tight band, and Erika Wennerstrom's unique and powerful voice.
On their fourth album, Arrow, their first for Partisan Records, they are on the path toward greater rock 'n' roll redemption. The opening track "Marathon," allows each member to slowly enter and provide a delicate cradle for Wennerstrom's confident and lofty voice. It builds slowly until the coda explodes with the simple, yet anthemic, "I'm on my way, I'm on my way home." She doesn't shout over the robust drum fills and wall of guitars, but she doesn't need to; in this case, the power is in her subtlety. "Only for You" is a breezy summer rocker with a lush falsetto. On "Simple Feeling," the Bastards return to the garage-blues roots of their first record. On "Arrow Killed the Beast," the band falls into slow-burn time with sparse drums worthy of an ancient war march. The closer, "Down in the Canyon," opens with a crushing guitar riff from 1971. This song finds its potency in patience and restraint. It is as quiet and delicate as it is HUGE and pummeling. The Heartless Bastards are what rock 'n' roll should aspire to: dynamic and diverse, unrelenting and unapologetic.
- Album: Arrow
- Artist: Heartless Bastards
- Label: Partisan Record
- Songs: (1) Marathon (2) Parted Ways (3) Got to Have Rock and Roll (4) Only For You (5) Simple Feeling (6) Skin and Bone (7) The Arrow Killed the Beast (8) Late in the Night (9) Low Low Low (10) Down in the Canyon