Heartless Bastards – Arrow | DOA

Heartless Bastards – Arrow

Heartless Bastards - Arrow

Heartless Bastards - Arrow

This is an album I struggled to not like. I wanted to like it. In fact, all of the elements of a likeable album are there: the strong band, the excellent songwriting, memorable lyrics, and some occasional hooks. But the parts don’t add up and, after repeated listenings where I waited for something to catch, for me to “get it”; I ended up just getting more and more frustrated. This is a grating, difficult, unsatisfying album. I found myself running for palette cleansers after each listen: give me some Nick Lowe, some Hold Steady, some Tears for Fears, anything. Please.

The problem is two things. The first is Erika Wennerstrom’s vocals, which are too throaty, too deep, too emotional, too heavy. They tend to swallow up most songs, leaving only the vocal-less intros and conclusions to ponder and enjoy. The second thing is the sheer repetitiveness of some of the lyrics. Case in point: the song “Simple Feeling,” which at one point simply repeats the words “Simple Feeling,” over and over and over … and over again. This would be barely tolerable if the voice were not as grating as Wennerstrom’s but, as it is, it turns into a wail, then sounds a screech, then resembles a noise not unlike scratching one’s fingernails across a blackboard. I had a headache when the song was finally over. The mix of voice and repetition even mars some of the better songs, like “Got to Have Rock and Roll,” an otherwise very solid song.

The grating nature of some of these songs might be diluted when the band plays live. One has the background noise to leaven the throatiness of Wennerstorm, and the guitars and drums might, at points, drown out the vocals.  And there are drinks. This album will no doubt garner more than its share of praise and fans, even raving fans; I will remain unmoved. There is very little in this album worth remembering, and if that makes me well, a heartless bastard, so be it.