Album review: The Heavy - Hurt & The Merciless
PUBLISHED: 08:00 27 April 2016 | UPDATED: 10:44 27 April 2016
A decade into their career and Bath quartet The Heavy have achieved what many of their contemporaries can only dream of, racking up more than 100million streams online and having their polyglot music featured in Hollywood hits The Big Short and The Hateful Eight.
Certainly, Hurt & The Merciless doesn’t pull any punches, with a fine line in pumped-up, floor-shaking R&B stompers.
Since You Been Gone, the album’s opening salvo and lead single, sets out its stall for a dozen tracks of ultra-tight musicianship that finds the band having a ball with Stones-y soulful rock’n’roll, R&B, funk, ‘60s garage and blues.
Turn Up is one of many up-tempo numbers overflowing with brass, nifty drumming, backing vocals straight out of a West End theatre blockbuster and a wild club atmosphere.
The rambunctious, sweaty Slave To Your Love’s swirling electric guitar, fat bass and horns would tear up any dancefloor, a kind of ferocious crossbreed of The Jim Jones Revue’s ‘60s garage-blues and Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reid’s supercharged soul at full pelt.
It’s often heavily theatrical - character-focused in the Motown strut of Mean Ol’ Man and almost Blues Brothers-esque on A Ghost You Can’t Forget, which boasts Kelvin Swaby’s ballsy, throaty delivery interspersed with tinkling ivories, rasping brass and ghost-train screams.
The odd baleful breathers reveal more facets to the band: Miss California painting the emptiness of a washed-up beauty queen with lonely mariachi trumpet, and Goodbye Baby bidding farewell with a swooning Motown treatment of tender violin, velvety horns and Swaby’s softer side.
In the wrong hands this self-produced LP could have been a deeply unsatisfying pastiche, but it’s all carried off with panache and musical verve.
Rating: 4/5 stars.