Album Review: WILD HEARSES – Ruins EP
It seems more and more these days, bands that broke up or went on hiatus years ago are rejoining in some form or fashion and putting out new material. In some cases though (especially most recently) these reunions are so large that they can make a cross-country drive to a desert valley outside of Los Angeles seem just a little less ludicrous (At The Drive-In, Refused… you’re still so far away)
What you don’t likely hear very often though, is when a band that played basement and all-ages shows in Northern Ontario reforms after two decades – having all grown up – and essentially just picks up where they left off.
Welcome to the wild world of WILD HEARSES.
Back in the early-90s, Erik Knudsen and the Rhyno brothers – Mark and Greg – were deeply enthralled in the music of the early-90s post-rock and grunge greats: DRIVE LIKE JEHU, THE AFGHAN WHIGS, NIRVANA. Flash-forward to the early 2010s and the trio has gotten back together for their debut EP Ruins (Feb. 28th 2012), and curiously even though the influences shine through in abundance, there is still something distinctly modern in this loud and raucous release.
Produced by Ian McGettigan (best known as bassist/vocalist for Canadian 90s indie rock staple THRUSH HERMIT), the five-track Ruins sees the now Guelph-based trio treading some of that currently popular throwback rock sound; unlike many of their contemporaries though, since the guys of WILD HEARSES actually lived through the 90s at an age when they could understand everything they were absorbing (and unlike this reviewer, who had to do plenty of catch-up afterwards), they’re understandably pretty good at it.
Of the three bands that WILD HEARSES professes outright as influences, components of each is evident throughout Ruins: musically the songs lean toward a few Bleach-era NIRVANA tracks, the EP has the production tonality of some of DRIVE LIKE JEHU’s mid-90s material, and WILD HEARSES guitarist/vocalist Knudsen definitely has hints of both JEHU’s Rick Froberg and THE AFGHAN WHIGS’ Greg Dulli about his performance.
Lead track “Burn Heretics, Burn” opens with a punchy minor-toned bass line and features plenty of fuzz to harken back to that early 90s post-rock feel – these quickly become staples that permeate the rest of the release. A little more separation of the vocals from all the distortion might’ve made for a cleaner listen, but if the trio were going for that dirtier DIY production feel they’ve absolutely nailed it here (and since the production is as tight as it is, it doesn’t come off like its lower-budget DIY brethren).
If you’re going to take away any one song off this release, “Talk To Me” is that track. It’s bold, it’s in your face, it’s mosh-pit-inducing, and above all else it’s catchy as hell. Though the intro/verse components are hooks in their own right, the repetitive chorus section (which features different lyrics [or no lyrics at all] each time it shows up) is what really makes this track stand out – here’s the second iteration:
When we don’t | talk this out | but it hurts a little less (yeah it hurts a little less)
“Again With The Fascists” has a recurring lead guitar riff throughout the verse that emulates the octaving power chords in the chorus, which really helps to make this song seem like one continuous thought. It ends up being one of those power-chord-heavy rock tracks – in the style of early-90s FUGAZI – that my ethnomusicology professor would likely have dubbed “man-rock” – it’s pure testosterone unleashed upon the masses, and they’re sure to eat it up.
Likewise, “Grey Ops” (a play on Black Ops, I’m sure) has a similar guitar riffing structure, here with a greater abundance of drumming variation from Greg (kudos on the dead air moments of suspense), though here it’s also the lyrics that help push this to the forefront with the repeating “this is serious” at the end of each chorus refrain. In contrast, “Lower The Lights” has a great funk/soul groove, but its poppier nature than the rest of the tracks on Ruins results in it sounding much like a heavier version of something one could find on an early GOO GOO DOLLS or LIMBLIFTER record.
Needless to say WILD HEARSES are deeply entrenched in the music of the early 90 – as that influence shines through prominently here on their five-track debut. If this isn’t really your cup of tea, so-be-it, though you’d truly be missing out on some great hard rock material that could’ve easily been a popular release 20 years ago – and may very well be one now alongside the recent 90s rock resurgence.
It also leaves me wondering why you’re here reading this review and not reading up on the Oscars… those are still popular, right?