Heat $heets’ self-titled debut offers a five-track lesson in growth and development, moving from uncertainty to confidence just 24 minutes.
Listening to the self-titled debut by Fredericton’s Heat $heets (She Said Feck Records) is a bit like hearing a band go from the just-starting-out phase to establishing the path they intend to follow. It’s like comparing a band’s first-ever song to one they wrote after rehearsing and gigging for a year or more. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing at all. In fact, if this is the case, I appreciate the honesty. I think a lot of bands are quick to ditch their early work instead of revisiting it after playing a dozen shows and learning to appreciate their material from a more critical perspective.
The reason I’m making this case for Heat $heets by Heat $heets has to do entirely with the way this five song EP progresses. The band literally seems to grow and improve as the tracks play through, and I love that. It’s a slow and rewarding reveal. Whether or not this was intentional or just a happy accident doesn’t matter. In this case, it’s effective and it works in their favour.
The EP’s opener establishes the groundwork. |4| says, “Hey. We’re a psych-rock band with a bit of 60’s garage happening and this is our first recording.” The playing is a little loose and there isn’t a lot of excitement in the song’s delivery. But if you’re with me on my hypothesis, the song could be anything. It doesn’t need to be exciting. Think of this as a conversation. We’re meeting these guys for the first time. We’re not going to start sharing photos of our kids and planning a road trip together. We need to at least know each other for more than the EP’s opening three minutes and fifty-four seconds.
When the second track kicks in (a song called Hyde), it’s like bam! – new band. The song’s melody and its delivery feel ten times more confident. The drums are punching with a bit more weight, the guitars have figured out their space and the vocals are right up front. Everything has moved up a notch. They’re showcasing some dynamics and genuine feel. This is where the head nodding begins.
NOTE: I didn’t set out to write a track by track review of this EP. But here we are. I think it’s the right course of action because as I’ve already pointed out, this EP is one solid, continuous progression. So let’s get back at it.
So the band have introduced themselves and have evolved considerably over the past two tracks. Now with the confidence of an established band with an established identity, it’s time to have some fun. It’s time for Axel Grease. At this point the band haven’t just figured their shit out, but they’re expanding on a few ideas they set us up for on the last track. Here, the guitars sound like a pair of three year olds vibrating on a serious sugar high. They’re opening all the cupboard doors and they’re turning all the knobs just to see what happens. And we let them, because it’s fun.
This freedom continues on through Don’t Forget, with its did-I-just-hear-that-right guitar tones and its stop-n-go rhythms. It’s not until the song’s closing phrase, the very last turn through the ending cycle, that I’m reminded I’m listening to a debut recording. You can hear the band collectively rush to the last beat, unable to harness all the energy they just generated. One of the easiest ways to distinguish a new band from a more experienced one is how they execute their starts and stops. It usually takes a while for groups to realize that a beginning and an end are the two things that every song they’ll ever write will have in common. Clean starts and stops are only possible after a lot of rehearsing, refining and experience. They’re about communication and good communication takes time to develop.
From here we glide into the EP’s final track, Groger, probably the most realized track on the album and a fitting denouement to the evolution presented here on this introductory release. The confidence and the energy that grew over the previous four tracks has now reached a controlled state of delivery. The tempo has shifted down ever so slightly and to my ears, the band is now operating as a cohesive unit. Their path has been plotted and now they’re driving, confidently, with the windows down.
Bands these days carry a lot of undue pressure to put out the best sounding recordings they can right from the get go. As a listener, I don’t mind it at all when a band doesn’t sound perfect, especially on their debut. I kind of like it that way. For my ears, it’s the sound of honesty, because let’s face it, there aren’t many new bands who play perfectly. And really, there aren’t that many experienced bands that play perfectly either. Art should never been perfect. It can be tough for a new band to sound authentic on their first recording but I think that’s what Heat $heets gave us here. This EP is pure honesty, and for that reason, it deserves not only our full attention but also our sincere appreciation. We should all be so honest.