Review Summary: A bit tame this time around...
I was not aware Reverend Horton Heat had changed their line-up until I saw the video for the aptly named title track off their latest LP, Whole New Life
. Scott Churilla left the group again, so besides a new drummer (RJ Contreras), they decided to include Matt Jordan, a piano player (long-overdue, to be honest) to further fuel the rock ‘n’ roll mania. At this point in their career, the Rev won’t catch you off guard with anything, but the quality of their output is unquestionable. They can craft a good song in their sleep, yet they have to fight redundancy by diversifying the songs as much as possible within the sonic sphere. Rev
was a breath of fresh air, because it had everything from cocaine-led stomps to campy country numbers. The latest affair benefits the extra member, still it’s more toned down compared to its predecessor. We receive less punk-paced stuff and more mid-tempo rockers.
Musically, front man Jim Heath took advantage of the additional piano to create his own collection of vintage revival rock songs. You get energetic rockabilly on the title track, ‘Wonky’ and ‘Got it in My Pocket’ to satisfy your classic RHH urge, however, they are not as wild as we know he can get. Unfortunately, the band pushed the BPM closer to the rest of the tracks most likely for cohesion. Meanwhile, the slick grooves of ‘Hog Tyin’ Woman’ & ‘Tchoupitoulas Street’ evoke the Elvis Presley influence made obvious through the closing cover, ‘Viva Las Vegas’. They flow really well and you can’t deny it. We’re also treated to some sweet surf rock touches melding alongside alternative rock on ‘Sunrise through the Power Lines’ and Texas barn country on the instrumental ‘Ride Before the Fall’. Both are solid cuts, nevertheless I miss that spastic, almost snapping feeling I get from other LPs. Les Claypool will sure dig the latter, especially its jerky guitar leads and toe tapping rhythm.
Despite the positive aspects, Whole New Life
is less interesting than it should be. Maybe I find it a bit disappointing because I have higher expectations from Reverend Horton Heat and love his edgier stuff. These tunes end up a bit tame and less infectious than others. Even so, I am not worried since they had some ups and downs in their career. I respect them for embarking on their vintage rock ’n’ roll trip here all the way and I hope for a return to a dirtier LP next time.