The Heavy: Glorious Dead
In 1956, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins released his debut single “I Put a Spell On You.” The hard rocking blues ballad became one of Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Fifty-three years after its release, the Heavy released a single called “Sixteen” which sampled the iconic Hawkins song. While many groups have used portions of “I Put a Spell On You” over the years, no band has been so committed to Jay Hawkins’ legacy as The Heavy. From their neo-soul horns to their dirty blues riffs, the Ninja Tune signees seem like a veritable Screamin’ Jay Hawkins eulogists. The tributes continue on the band’s third album, Glorious Dead.
It is hard to listen to “Big Bad Wolf” and not think of Screamin Jay Hawkins. With its maleficent tones and use of fairy tale imagery, the track has the very real possibility of being corny but the Heavy have a magical insouciance about them which leads the listener to believe there is no devil-worshipping going on behind the scenes, just drinking and a lot of fun. The same raucous fun can be heard in the album’s lead single “What Makes a Good Man?” Between the track’s bombastic horns and gospel clapping breakdown, it could end up sounding like a tribute but the Heavy add their hip hop generation swagger to creating something fresh.
That same hip hop swagger however is what sadly betrays them on the album’s least successful track, “Curse Me Good.” The track’s subtle 808 and acoustic guitars are reminiscent of Outkast‘s “Hey Ya.” With a whistle-filled intro, the listener wonders if you are listening to their attempt at Peter Bjorn and John‘s “Young Folks.” But despite what might seem like successful elements on their own, the fact is the track is just a ballad that is just a little too clean for the dirty blues album that the Heavy have made with Glorious Dead. Luckily, not many tracks disappoint quite like “Curse Me Good.” For the most part, the album keeps a very consistent tone and creates the type pathos that most shadowy blues-rock wannabes can only dream of. Yes, the Heavy may have created their best album yet. Screamin Jay would be so proud.