Reverberations: Born Liars and The Heys
New noise from the Bayou City and across the pond:
“Go Back One Day” roars from start to finish with the same cymbal-crashing moxie as Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, building and thrashing on top of a late-night bar shuffle that makes very clear that we’re not dealing with the same band who released Exit Smiling two long years ago. That record was a fine debut, no doubt, but Born Liars have grown into a much nastier force since then. Exit Smiling had flashes of power-pop creeping through its pores and, while well-executed, misrepresented a band that has cultivated a downright filthy sound, one that currently stands as the stiffest middle finger in Houston rock.
“Meet Me Downstairs” is kicked-off with a swirling riff that soon finds itself lodged in Shane Lauder’s Detroit percussion thunder. Were Jimmy Sanchez to affect any more of a sneer, his vocals would simply become unintelligible. As is, he just sounds like the snottiest rock singer to burst from any local clouds in a good long while, lending an emotional credibility that would’ve gone AWOL under care of another vocalist, while cymbal crashes and Bill Greer’s bass punch the whole thing in the ass.
The B-side, “Back Where I Belong,” is a pure, beer-drenched scream-along with a guitar solo that claws at your eyes before spitting you back into a reprise of the first verse, and a fine selection for finishing out a little piece of vinyl that showcases one of the biggest sounds in Houston.
The Heys make no effort to conceal their love of the music that influenced them. Their debut Youngbored&broke will inevitably see some comparisons to Arctic Monkeys, which isn’t too far off base: The Heys have the same melodic sense, much of the same muscle and something of the same energy. The difference is that the Heys sound grown-up, if not a little bit grizzled
So far as influences, one of the most evident is Damon Albarn’s on frontman Tom Flynn (see the anthemic “Brightenupmyday.”) Aside from this and Pete Townshend’s stamp on almost all guitar lines, The Jam may have the most tangible influence here. However, The Heys have too much interest in their guitars to ever be pure missionaries of blue-eyed soul, so the Paul Weller lineage has to do with the huge power-pop hooks and the veneer of cynicism that causes this record to shine. “Elbowculture,” a sharp-edged lament of a selfish society, is the lynchpin of this interpretation, while “Pressure” is an attack aimed at wasteful, empty nights and the ways we choose to try to dodge internalized turmoil. It’s not Rimbaud, but it’s honest, and its “ch-ch-changes” inspired yarn over heavy bass and OkGo-on-steroids guitars is irresistible.
In fact, what soon becomes apparent is that The Heys have studied and assimilated the whole of infectious Britpop: the wide open chord-riffing that opens the title track recalls Pulp, as do many of the lyrical themes (though it should be noted that Flynn, cognizant of the perils of trying to be Jarvis Cocker, avoids melodrama). When the band gets light-hearted, they can lay out sunny vocal harmonies and bouncy, hand-clapping bridges right alongside Supergrass (“Don’t,” “Getiton,” “Scene”). They avoid the moody ways of Oasis (though they come close on “Fridaynight”) and embrace the bittersweet sneer of London Suede (“Arms&legs,”“Hey”) while managing to inject the album with their own ripped power-pop (“Itain’tWotusay,” the shimmering ballad “Breakdown”).
The lyrics can edge toward heavy-handedness, but the heart is most definitely in the right place. If The Heys are just borrowing ideas to bide the time, they’ll be gone by next year. But if what we’re dealing with here is an upwardly mobile band, all hell could break loose the next time these guys enter the studio. – Chris Henderson