Filed under: album, review | Tags: serrina sims, stephanie heney, sweethead
The Queens Of The Stone Age camp are as well known for their side projects as they are for their own work. With a family tree of Jon Spencer or Nick Cave proportions, each member has a finger in several musical pies, as does every musical second cousin. (It would seem that the fewer degrees of separation from Josh Homme and Mark Lanegan one can demonstrate, the cooler a musician you are.) Named after a David Bowie B-side, Sweethead is the latest export gliding in on the QOTSA conveyor belt, this time from the band’s current guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen. Only one link away from both Homme and Lanegan, Van Leeuwen can also be further connected to the family tree via Eagles Of Death Metal and the Gutter Twins. Sweethead’s drummer Norm Block (of Mark Lanegan Band and Plexi) and bassist Eddie Nappie (Mark Lanegan Band and Handsome) make up the rest of the backing band, but what makes Sweethead relevant to Wears The Trousers is frontwoman and relative newcomer (to this scene, anyways) Serrina Sims.
Sims is notable thus far for appearing in the video for QOTSA’s ‘Burn The Witch’ and participating in last year’s Natasha Shneider benefit show – quite a few more degrees of separation, therefore practically an outsider. It’s hard to discern whether all of these interconnected musicians are one big happy family or part of a clique in-crowd. Certainly a lot has been said about Sweethead’s ‘LA band’ status. Their sound is very much of the city and they have already filmed a video on one of its most recognisable streets, but they’re very vocal about not being an LA band. Not that this has much to do with the merits of the album, but it does seem a little premature for them to be focusing on style over content, especially when discussing a debut.
Sweethead the album is solid, standard, foot-on-the-monitor, hard rock ‘n’ roll: dirty, sleazy, unapologetic and inescapably LA. Sims’s vocals burst with a sexy riot grrl confidence, with more than a passing resemblance to Karen O, Brody Dalle and even Chrissie Hynde. Her presence, along with Van Leeuwen’s fuzzy distortion, provide two of the ingredients for what could be an excellent rock record. Add in some Bowie referencing, frequent swearing, and dark references throughout, and it all seems sewn up. However, what let Sweethead down are their leanings towards safe and chart-friendly sludge. By having said ingredients but taking no risks, the rock elements seem contrived and forced. Once all the surface crap of image is stripped away, what is left – that is, the actual music – is disappointingly weak.
The stronger tracks are ‘We Turned Our Backs’, ‘P.I.G’ and ‘A.W.O.L.’, which are fast-paced and guitar-led, but the album soon sags with a lengthy section of bland and forgettable songs, in a similar vein to large parts of the current Kings Of Leon album. What will likely be the singles are catchy, but if the swagger isn’t real, Sweethead will go the same way as KOL and ultimately only look the part.
UK release date: 02/11/09; www.myspace.com/sweethead
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