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Heartless Bastards @ The Knitting Factory , 1/25
In a world where so many of our female vocalists sound like they've been sucking on helium, it's so refreshing to come across one who sounds like she's been hanging out at a truck stop all night. Yelling. I first heard the Heartless Bastards when my neighbor played them every day, all day, very loudly for about a week, and I was hooked before I even knew who they were. Then I learned that they had one of the best band names I'd ever come across. Then I learned that the lead singer was a woman, not, as I'd originally pictured, some weird, high-strung dude. Then I saw them live on Thursday night at the Knitting Factory. It's not that they put on an incredible live show -- for the most part they all just sort of stood there (the drummer did the sitting equivalent of just stood there) -- but that Erika Winnerstrome, the band's vocalist and guitarist, knows what she's doing, and does it with such passion, sincerity and muscle that you can't take your eyes off her. The fact that their music rocks like a pig doesn't hurt either.
The Heartless Bastards are a power trio from Cincinatti featuring Mike Lamping on bass, Kevin Vaughan on drums and Erika Winnerstrome on guitar, vocals and the occasional piano. They put sincerely straightforward lyrics to a massive wall of power-chords and still manage to eek out hooky, sing songy melodies amongst the din.
I only own their first album, Stairs and Ladders, which is full of raunchy, power chord anthems, and while I've always liked it, unlike my neighbor, I rarely listen to it more than once a sitting. Their new album, All This Time, however, is the stuff my rock and roll wet dreams are made of. The new material is no-nonsense all the way, has more depth, is more complicated, bigger, wiser and reeks of something that could really take them somewhere huge. Where so many artists seem to shoot their wads on their debut efforts, the Heartless Bastards have clearly saved their wad for number two. Both albums are fully worth your time, and Thursday night's show gave us a much-appreciated hefty serving of both.
With LA's good old rock and rollin' Backbiter, and punk boys Geisha Girls.