Remember the first time you heard “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley? It had a monster hook, was instantly catchy, and came out of leftfield, musically speaking. Not necessarily a mainstream artist (at least collectively, since Cee-Lo and Danger were both known individually), so it felt like a real find, the proverbial diamond in the rough. Coincidentally, The Heavy has a little bit of a Gnarls Barkley feel to it; not because of the lineup, as this is no hipster super band, but because of the soul of the project. In some fantasy cut-away, I can imagine The Heavy starting a “funk n’ roll” revolution, where bands with names like “Mocha Sunshine” or “The Badness” rule the roost in the up-and-coming artist racks at your local music stores.
This is saying a lot, since the last time The Heavy made an album, it relied much more on sampling and hip-hop elements. After that record, the British band opted to go with the full band approach, and more original than borrowed. The result is an album of ten grooves, each a little different than the other ranging from punk, funk and old fashioned R&B. And these ten songs fly by fast, despite the record being a decent 35+ minutes, you’ll want more when it’s done.
The obligatory old-ass sounding audio clip starts off the album, warning you not to go into the spooky house. Fair enough, it sets the tone for an old school kind of romp, and also follows along with the band’s ominous imagery such as their trademark skull and dark colors. Then the first song “Oh No! Not You Again!” discharges out the end of the clip in a Stooges-like explosion of guitars and drums. Safe to say this is probably the dullest (in comparison) track on the entire record, and also one of the shortest, giving way to one of the band’s hot singles, “How You Like Me Now?” Now we begin to see the tonal lengths we can expect from The Heavy. The ghost of James Brown has clearly descended upon Kelvin Swaby, as over a wall of horns and a thick bassline he warbles on the chorus, “How you like me na?” with a ferocious swagger.
It would be a trap for most bands to extend this type of song throughout the rest of the album. A couple more audio clips, maybe a skit, and a lot more funk, then call it a day. But The Heavy spread out their talent with pervasive variety. “Sixteen” drips with oldies charm and an “I Put A Spell On You” opening. “Short Change Hero” morphs a neo-spaghetti western theme into a soulful, melancholy mo-town tune before combining both themes in the end. “No Time” is gritty 70’s rock, which, if you squint your ears, almost sounds like Hendrix in its finer moments. So it goes, sounds as diverse as reggae and Brit-invasion pop rock weave their way into the album, with the sole uniter of each of the songs being a sharp sense of musical accomplishment and excellent songwriting.
If there’s any complaints to made, it’s length, as it’s over much too fast. But erring on the side of caution is much better than wearing out one’s early welcome with a newer band like this, and from the sound of things, The Heavy’s gonna be around for a while.