Tuesday, September 6, 2016

hepa-Titus, FM Warm Weather, 2016

Album Review

by Ken Geiger

[CoolDad Note: You may remember Ken Geiger from the review he posted here of last summer's Primus gig on the Stone Pony Summer Stage or his Top 5 Albums of 2015. He's also played in several local punk / experimental bands like The Uncommonly Good, Altered Cross, GPP, and -- now -- KPG. Ken came to me a while back with the idea that he could cover some of the underground, heavier stuff that I don't tend to focus on here -- albums, songs, maybe even some shows. That's a big chunk of the independent music world I've kind of ignored at CoolDad Music, so I told him to go for it. Here's his first album review.]

I hate to think of the concept that some records or bands can only be enjoyed during certain seasons of the year. If you are a good enough band, then your music can be listened to at any time, in any mood, no matter the circumstance. With that in mind, I was a bit skeptical of the new hepa-Titus album, FM Warm Weather. I had read that bassist / fearless front-man Kevin Rutmanis had written these songs with the Summer season in mind. Given his past tenures in genre-bending bands like the Cows, Melvins and Tomahawk, I couldn’t tell what he meant by that statement until I listened. After multiple listens through, I realize that FM Warm Weather is not a record just for the summer; but damn does it paint a beautifully messed-up picture around this hellish heat we have been experiencing the past few months.

The album opens with an absolutely crushing track in “Holy Holly Hall.” While most of the track is made up of pummeling guitar riffs that would give Rutmanis’s old Melvins bandmates a run for their money in terms of heaviness, I find the end of the track to be a great prelude to some of the sounds the band explores further on the album; more mellow surf rock-type guitars mixed with a slide bass that has become a fixture in the playing style of Mr. Rutmanis since his early Cows days. Both “Cobumble” and “Crystal Shine” are songs that let this playing style really shine in the spotlight, while delivering plenty of riffs we can all rock out to while driving down to the beach. If you are looking for more of the heavy, though, I suggest the two tracks “Down on Judith” and “Ted Kennedy,” the latter giving off the vibe that it could fit in on the likes of a Clutch record or even as an obscure Led Zeppelin jam.

The last two tracks of the record definitely display the band in a more experimental setting, reminiscent of their earliest releases. A cover of the Alice Cooper deep cut “Killer” remains very true to the original, even in a piece of work that comes from the singer’s more technical days. Last but not least is the appropriately titled end track “It’s Not Summer Anymore.” Clocking in at a little over 10 minutes, the track offers a serving of droning greatness full of claps, minimal percussion and atmospheric noises that we could see in hints of Rutmanis’s work in Melvins and Tomahawk.

Now, while I have never had to doubt that hepa-Titus could deliver something great in terms of experimental music, what really blew me away was how much the group has come along in writing more straightforward music over the years without giving up what made them so appealing to begin with.  Although it does not seem like the band will be coming to the east coast soon, seeing as they mostly just play in California, with the offshoot gig at Grumpy’s in Minneapolis, at least we are given some great music to melt our brains to as the warm summer weather continues to melt the rest of our bodies as it winds down.

You can check out FM Warm Weather, as well as the rest of the hepa-Titus discography, at the hepa-Titus Bandcamp page.

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