Album name: The Great Disruptors EP
Artist name: Sweethead
Released: July 13 2009
Label: Strange Addiction
ZME Rating: 8/10
With PJ Harvey taking various detours away from her intelli-punk rock of old, Brody Dalle’s Spinerette sounding less like the Distillers than a slightly more modern No Doubt, and Courtney Love continuing to disappear into a putrid puddle of confused irrelevance, there’s a gaping hole in the rock industry, just waiting for a glam-punk-rock femme fatale to fill the void. Enter Serrina Sims, who – despite having a name that sounds like a contrived publicity figure for a new EA video game – seems to have all the credentials to take the vacated crown: vampish looks, sultry vocals, and a backing band to die for.
Yes, Sweethead: it’s the latest side project from the whole Californian Desert Rock scene, if such a thing can really be said to exist. The most recognisable face of the lot comes in the form of the fantastically dapper Troy Van Leeuwen, better known for his role as guitarist in Queens of the Stone Age, and he brings a lot of that bands sensibilities to Sweethead’s EP: fuzzed-out bass, a potent mix of sludgy and sharp guitar, and healthy dose of coked-out decadence. Rounding out the group on bass and drums respectively are Eddie Nappi and Norm Block, alumni of the Bubblegum-era Mark Lanegan Band, so there’s a healthy pedigree when it comes to this style of music.
You know exactly what you’re in for by the time the title track – also the first song on the EP – hits its chorus: glammy garage rock, vaguely in the QOTSA mold but with a firm nod in the direction of classic rock (as exemplified by the closing track, a cover of the Kinks’ “Tired of Waiting For You”). “The Great Disruptors” opens with an ominous, circular bassline, over which Serrina Sims lays some slithering vocals, and proceeds as expected: spiky guitar lines, catchy chorus, and a lot of great-sounding-but-utterly-ridiculous lyrics. “Slashed tires, undercover vampires / left you open to a right-wing malevolence”.
It’s Lullabies-era Queens with a slightly more pop twist, but it’s saved by enthusiastic performances all around – particularly Sims, who debuts here with a confidence belying her inexperience, sounding like Courtney Love if she hooked up with Josh Homme instead of Billy Corgan. She gets a little room to stretch out on “Traumatised and Dumb”, with the guitar holding back to more of a supporting role, and it turns out to be the highlight of the set – certainly displaying a grasp of dynamics perhaps underexplored on the other songs. Between Sims’ commanding vocals, an insidiously catchy chorus, and a wonderfully discordant guitar solo, it’s got all the necessary ingredients to be a dirty great rock song, and… y’know… it is.
So, two great songs, two decent ones sandwiched in between, and a fun Kinks’ cover (which is up for free download on their website) to take it all home: you can’t really ask for much more from a debut EP. They’ll have to expand on their sound at least a little bit on a full album, but for now, they’re showing plenty of promise. And hey, it’s pretty exciting to have a band come out swinging, openly declaring their intentions to be glamorous LA rock stars, and for that band not to be BuckCherry or Hinder. So there’s that.
1 – The Great Disruptors
2 – Hardspun
3 – Arcane Arcade
4 – Traumatised and Dumb
5 – Tired of Waiting For You