I am sure you have heard numerous songs about Miss California before: she’s the Californian girl every rock band loves. Blond-haired, blue-eyed, summer fun. So when I saw a song called Miss California on Hurt & the Merciless, I was prepared for the most clichéd worst. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The way that The Heavy tells it, Miss California used to be a pretty girl — but now she’s a zombie who has become terribly difficult to kill! And frankly, whether it’s a metaphor or not doesn’t matter to me: the song’s clever upending of my own expectation represents Hurt & the Merciless as an album perfectly.
In case it wasn’t already clear, The Heavy have found a wonderfully unique sound here. Soul-inspired retro throwback rock to a time when the bass guitar line was as important was the main riff, and rock music was a staple of high school dances. The Heavy are steeped in this culture without ever feeling like a throwback the same way that, say, Leon Bridges does.
Listen to Since You Been Gone, the album’s opener: a massive, joyful main riff and a great soul backing makes the song leap off the record and come alive. And the drums carry the chorus almost entirely on their own. Clearly the band is filled with skilled instrumentalists.
And What Happened to the Love? sounds like a mix of White Stripes and The Strokes, with a verse and a chorus that both waste no time in assaulting the listener with vintage power chord riffs and a storming drum line that feels like it rolls through the chorus.
Hurt & the Merciless is The Heavy’s best record yet. The fourth time is apparently the charm: at this point, it’s evident that The Heavy are going to do what they’re going to do, modern fashion and sensibilities be darned. They want to surprise you, they want to give you something of substance, and they want to entertain. With Hurt & the Merciless, they manage to do all three.