“I don’t care ’bout the weather, the band’s here to play.” – Jon Harvey
Why are you not rocking? This is the question that Monster Truck ask to open their 2016 release Sittin’ Heavy, easily the best record the quartet have released to date. “Rock and roll might save your life, it might save your life tonight.” Perhaps this is the Truck’s modus operandi, because judging by Sittin’ Heavy they are interested in delivering the rock and doing it right.
From the short blitz of an opener, Truck go right into the first single “Don’t Tell Me How to Live”. The track has been a radio staple in Canada for most of 2016, and it’s easy to see why. The slow riffy groove is easily digestible by rock fans craving that sound, backed by a searing chorus about eagles and lions. Some have compared this band to another Nickelback, but on Sittin’ Heavy they have moved far beyond those measures. Nickelback has never delivered anything this classic sounding. Track three, “She’s a Witch” has a modern swampy vibe that Chad Kroeger couldn’t hope to taint. Three songs in, Monster Truck delivered three completely different tunes, though all with the rock solid Truck groove. One ingredient that separates the Truck from the crowd is the soulful organ provided by keyboardist Brandon Bliss. “She’s a Witch” is one track with a bizarrely heavy soul-metal vibe. That vibe culminates with “For the People”, an uplifting track that closes side one of the vinyl. The soul-rock vibe is obvious and augmented by Ian Thornley of Big Wreck who lays down some of his trademark wicked slide guitar. The Wreck-ifying of the track unites the two bands in a cool, celebratory way.
Flip the vinyl, and take a moment. “Black Forest” is a organ based track, slow and mournful, and very different from any of the four on side one. When a band like Monster Truck turn down the volume, they risk revealing that there is little substance beneath the howling distortion. This is certainly not the case here. “Black Forest” has a more subtle touch, and the band allow it to breath. As a result it’s one of the most stand-out tracks.
“Another Man’s Shoes” walks us back into familiar territory. The Truck don’t make things complicated, and guitarist Jeremy Widerman’s Frehley-like solos are just what the doctor ordered for these musical bruisings. They take a left turn down Abbey Road next by adding some Beatles-like piano vibes to “Things Get Better”, an outstanding track. “I got a feelin’ thing’ll get worse before they get better,” sings Jon Harvey but he couldn’t be more wrong. Sittin’ Heavy keeps getting better the more you play it, and “Things Get Better” is a high water mark. Side two blasts its way to a finish on “The Enforcer”, which races home with plenty of the Truck’s trademark “woah-woah-woah” gang vocals.
The third and final side (we’ll talk about that shortly) begins darkly with a Sabbath-like “To the Flame”. Widerman and Harvey seemed to study at the feet of Iommi and Osbourne when composing this menacing crawl. “Midnight” takes the tempo back up to cruising speed. Going in at low altitude, the Truck bomb your senses with a vinyl-only bonus track. Considering the price you pay for a record vs. a CD, it is nice to get something like a bonus track for your dollars. In the 80s, it was common to put a bonus track on the CD, since it was the most expensive format at that time. Now the situation is reversed.
A choppy riff introduces “New Soul”, a purely enjoyable return to the church of soul-rock. It’s a head-bangin’ good time. Clap your hands for a good time (unless you’re listening to this while driving, in which case, keep ’em steady on the wheel). Then the final track is appropriately the ballad “Enjoy the Time” which sounds like a natural way to end a soulful rock album like Sittin’ Heavy. Its Supertramp-like keyboard tones lend it a unique sound over the rest of the album. It also sums up the vibe of the whole album: “Enjoy the time we have, before they’re gone away.”
But what about the fourth side? What’s on that? Check out the etched vinyl, baby!
If you are looking for a new rock album that sounds classic, then you have found one. Those who like a rock record to be a journey of highs and lows and with a satisfying conclusion, then Sittin’ Heavy is the one. With little doubt, this one is going to be on a few best of 2016 lists at the end of the year.