The West Country’s finest make their break
Originality can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand people laud the innovators, on the other they like what they know. That’s why there’s an outpouring of grief when Bowie or Lemmy dies, while simultaneously the tribute band gigs are packed.
Tax The Heat might only be just about to release their second record, but it feels – already – that they thought they were at a crossroads. It’s the age-old thing, you’ve got all your life to make your debut album (which in the particular case of TTH came after a lot of live shows and a couple of EP’s) but then you’ve got to make record number two sharpish.
Also – and this comes from seeing Tax The Heat a lot of times, liking their stuff and having interviewed them too – there is the thought that they might not have readily fitted in with the rock n roll thing that they were lumped in with. They were always a band, you felt, that would reveal more of themselves as time went by.
And, whilst “Change Your Position” isn’t a complete turnaround – “Playing With Fire” for example could have come straight off the debut – it is nevertheless, what you might call the authentic Tax The Heat experience.
It’s the subtle differences that hit you. “Money In The Bank” has the stop-start crunch they seem to make look so effortless, but there’s some Queen like stack harmonies too. Indeed, for all that singer Alex Veale reckons that in his mind this is what a modern guitar band should sound like, there is a whole load of glam rock intent here.
To that end the title track has a thumping bass groove, a take on the modern world, a superb hook and cowbell. And on the basis that all of those things are ace (yes, especially the cowbell we admit) it is pretty special.
But TTH circa 2018 is probably best exemplified by “All That Medicine”. If you never thought that they were the type of band for a disco floor filler, then think again. And if you think they sound like anyone else then let us know who, because this is as original as things get.
“On The Run” lets says has a similarity with the opening riff of “Magic Carpet Ride”, but there’s a real early 90s thing going on here. Think The Senseless Things or A at a push and you’ll be in the right ball park. Until they go and chuck in a slide guitar solo, the scamps.
For a fast-paced band, Heat are adept at the odd ballad too. “The Last Time” adds a 1960s style lush chorus, but actually they sound at their happiest on “Taking The Hit”. Another with a dancefloor sheen, this one makes good on the fact they were covering Prince at shows last year, as Veale finds a falsetto you didn’t know he’d got.
A tight and skilled band at the best of times, “Headspace” takes those epithets to another level, as well as being the most punk rock orientated thing they’ve done.
“We Are Consumers” ensures that there is no let ups here, with its interesting rhythms, and although an Oasis reunion was ruled out again this week in the press, then “Cut Your Chains” has something of the Gallagher brothers about it. “Wearing A Disguise” is one of the more straight up rockers here, with its big arena filling dreams – it is also the perfect three-minute pop song.
Nothing here outstays its welcome in fairness. “The Symphony Has Begun” pulls off the trick of sounding like it might be epic, but still being under four minutes long. “The band will strike it up for one more song,” sings Veale here and, that sent us thinking that when we saw them live last before Christmas we said that Tax The Heat were but one song away from crossing over. Whether it’s here or not, we’ll let the public judge. We can say, though, that with “Change Your Position” Tax The Heat have rather neatly and cleverly placed themselves as one of the most innovative bands around – which to them might be more important.