When you run through the promo list for this site, a few genres pop um time and time again: Death metal, Black metal, Deathcore, Grindcore – the usual suspects that you would expect to crop up behind the scenes of a metal reviews site. So when your eye catches sight of ‘Country, Americana, Alternative’, it tends to pique your interest.
What makes it even more interesting is that the man behind it is Brent Hinds; creative driving force behind Mastodon and all round nice guy. Obviously not content with ruling the metal world with his day job, Brent has brought us a double album, each side showcasing one of Brent Hinds’ bands: Fiend Without A Face and West End Motel. Side one starts off fairly innocuously, with the first minute of ‘Calypso’ gently lulling with a carnival-esque jingle, before bursting into life with Hines screaming his lungs out over some fantastic Psychobilly guitar. And all of a sudden you’re transported to a world where the men have quiffs, the women wear leather and it’s acceptable to dance punchingly (if anyone has ever been to a Psychobilly gig that will make perfect sense).
While Hines gives a big tip of the hat to Psychobilly Premier Reverend Horton Heat, especially on the hectic ‘Stupido’, there’s more than a hint of Kyuss’ The Desert Sessions about some of the slower numbers such as the spacey ‘Cosmonaut’. Though a good part of the album is instrumental, Hinds does lend his voice to a couple of tracks, it’s a better man than me who recognises him, as he exercises a penchant for silly accents on most of his vocals, even on ‘Get Straight’, a messed up cover of Devo‘s ‘Whip It’. Fiend…‘s main strength lies in its infectious energy; even though some of the tracks are a bit ‘out there’, it’s hard not to get involved, from a tap of the foot all the way to the crazy spastic dancing I find myself practising while the album is on.
It makes for a huge contrast then, when West End Motel rolls around. Opening with a short spoken word passage from Hines, opener “…And We Are Here To Entertain You” then stamps all over the laid back atmosphere with the bellowing vocals of Tom Cheshire, and things take a turn for the ambiguous. Every time I listen to West End Motel I can never quite tell whether it’s meant to be a joke or not. ‘…And We Are Here To Entertain You” seems to have its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, and yet there are a few moments of true sincerity in the bluesy ‘High Waters’ and the traditional Irish sounds of ‘Slow Burn’. Either way, it doesn’t quite light the touchpaper like Fiend Without A Face does. It seems to lack the delightfully organic guitar work that brought side one so effectively to life, and though an intentionally more laid back affair, it never seems to land the killer blow.
An album of two sides then, as I find the tracks on Fiend Without A Face played more and more often, especially as a compliment to sunshine and whiskey; while West End Motel appears only for the comedy value of the first track.