So here's the deal. Everyone says the Heavy's Kelvin Swaby sounds a lot like Prince. It's the occasional falsetto, and the slithery-smooth but concomitantly crunchy backing of his band. As with any comparison, the truth is a bit more convoluted. On their debut album, Great Vengeance and Furious Fire, the then-coed brigade paid tribute to a lot more influences than just the one name-changing, bad-acting Mormon. The distant atmospherics of opener "Brukpocket's Lament" conjure an ambiguous indie film's rain-drenched climax scene; on "Dignity," the early-aughts "the" bands' calculated barbarism comes to mind, for better or worse; "Our Secret Place" is even harder-edged; "Who Needs the Sunshine" blends the vintage feel of an ancient soul b-side with the slow and nasty backbeat of a D'Angelo ballad.
But did anyone see this one coming--a track that literally channels Tom Waits? That's what we've got for the lead single off these British Spin darlings' sophomore album, The House that Dirt Built. The verb "channel" isn't to be used lightly, but come on. That neo-New Orleans beat, the honking tuba doubled with the bass line, lyrics about the devil, and -- the icing on the tribute cake -- a video at Coney Island. If by any chance he's seen the video for "Sixteen," the carny-fied folk legend is probably having himself a raspy, cigarette-stained chuckle right now.
The main problem with the Heavy's music is that even when its apparent influences are wide-ranging or even ambiguous, the stuff usually manages to sound derivative. Still, there were plenty of bright spots on Great Vengeance, and "Sixteen" itself distills a good deal of Tom Waits' otherly intrigue along the way to, well, sounding a lot like him.
The House that Dirt Built is due out Oct. 6. That means we've got a lot of time to wait, which means a lot of time to milk that pun....