Smoke 'em If You Got 'em

The Reverend Horton Heat

SubPop Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


My baptism of The Reverend Horton Heat came earlier this year when I saw them play at a moderately sized club in the city which I dwell. With little music background I had on the group, I didn't know what to expect. Sweat soaked and with many drinks in me later, I knew the full meaning of what they called a "Psychobilly Freakout".

The next day I bought three of their albums. And they've become a signiature soundtrack for my summer so far. The Reverend, upright bass player Jim "Jimbo" Wallace and drummer Patrick 'Taz' Bentley are one of the most consistantly enjoyable trios of this decade. Picture a 90s Buddy Holly with an affection for martinis and cocaine and you've got a good idea of what The Reverend Horton Heat sound like.

Like Mojo Nixon, The Reverend sings about average American pleasures, but with a surprising amount of wit and musicianship. "Bad Reputation", "Marijuana" and "Eat Steak" are some of the songs on Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Emmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 that need no explaination about their content.

Smoke 'Em is a good introduction for a non-conformed Reverend fan. It's their first major release on the SubPop label. All of their releases showcase a trio who couldn't be tighter if they wanted to. Though an upright bass does not have the range of an electric bass, Jimbo does wonders with it, providing the drive for the band. His flame-streaked bass is the centerpiece of their revved-up live shows.

The Reverend's skillful guitar playing is heavy influenced by '50s rockabilly and sounds amazingly fresh today. And Patrick "Taz" Bentley is a great rhythm section, playing off of Jimbo's syncopated playing. It's a simple formula, but it hasn't failed the band yet.

The humor of the band is especially evident in the song "Eat Steak." If any song could piss off a vegetarian it would be this song. With a twisted horse trot beat, The Reverend gives us tasty lyrics like "Eat steak/Eat steak it's a mighty good food/It's a grade A meal when I'm in the mood".

Unlike artists such as Tricky, The Reverend Horton Heat proudly wear the label of music that they helped bring to exposure. The song "Psychobilly Freakout" is a proud declaration of a new spin on Rockibilly. Half a full out jam session, half a psychedelic experimentation with feedback, it's one of the songs that will forever define the band's sound.

Their later works have the same intensity of Smoke 'Em, which is both good and bad for fans. The Full Custom Gospel Sounds Of The Reverend Horton Heat, their next album, is pretty much the same formula, with a few new avenues explored.

I guess that may be the main weakness the Reverend Horton Heat has. All of their albums are a fun, safe bet to enjoy. But you can't get the full exposure of the band's capabilities unless you see them live. It's sort of like trying to put the energy of a Parliament show on CD.

For those who can't see them live, I would recommend holding up a convenience store if need be. They're not an act to be missed. To get started though, pick up any of their albums. If you like your rock n' roll rebellion undiluted, this band is for you. Not rebellion as in Public Enemy or Clash style, but rebellion as in true rock n' roll excess, this band is up your alley. Grab a deck of cards, eat a bloddy steak, drink about six gin and tonics and throw Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em down while you're puffing on a cigar during a game of spades on your payday and you'll be a believer.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 1997 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of SubPop Records, and is used for informational purposes only.