Good times: on 29 october 1990, totally intoxicated by the fact that I lived in a city that bands actually played in* I bullied a couple of my, brand new, friends from university into going to see Thee Hypnotics at Leeds Duchess of York**.  It was exciting, a bit urban for a farm boy like me.  The music didn’t disappoint either, support band Filipinos were muddy-sounding and pleasantly noisy and trashy (‘unhindered by talent’, I patronisingly wrote in my gig review*^) and then Thee Hypnotics came on and just swamped us with hugely noisy, insanely heavy and bluesy rock.  A year, or so later people would have called their sound ‘grungey’, in fact their debut LP, Come Down Heavy had just been picked up for US distribution by a little-known regional record label called Sub Pop.  I described them as ‘brilliantly subterranean’ 26 years ago and I’m struggling to beat that now.

Thee Hypnotics Come Down Heavy 01

Interesting gig fact – due to their drummer breaking his back^ they had drafted in punk mad man and The Damned mainstay, Rat Scabies in to play with them.

But that’s not what I’m here for.  Inspired by seeing them I picked up a copy of their debut LP Come Down Heavy a couple of years later.  This is a heavy, bluesy, distorted LP by anyone’s definition.  The band undoubtedly borrowed from the likes of Blue Cheer and the Stooges, but as an excited 18 year-old provincial I’d never heard a note of either band at the time and so it was all new and exciting to me^^.

Is this photo-shopped, or do you think their thingys are touching?
Is this photo-shopped, or do you think their thingys are touching?

I like the basic sound of Come Down Heavy, they have that great Neanderthal vibe, that I’m a real sucker for, that you get when you get a band ham-fistedly playing the blues, making up their lack of finesse with brute volume – I’m guessing this is at least partly a pose, because the musicianship is damn good in places.  Phil May and Dick Taylor of thuggish Brit legends The Pretty Things make a couple of appearances hither and thither on the LP too.  Where the band fall down a bit is in taking their template elsewhere, giving the listener some more interesting hooks, songwriting in a word.

Thee Hypnotics Come Down Heavy 02

My favourite track and one I can remember them playing live even 26 years later, is the second side opener ‘(Let It) Come Down Heavy’.  They get the mix of dynamics and heft just right on this one and as a result the track hits you like a severely hung over Hendrix outtake, just swampy enough, just clear enough to hurt.  It’s great, especially the gang vocals near the end.  I’m also pretty fond of the next track ‘What To Do’ which is considerably more spritely and has some great harp on it courtesy of Phil May.  The only other real stand-out for me is ‘Unearthed’ which is 2:28 of cosmic subterranean-homesick blues, which is like stepping into a wormhole in the space-time continuum which simultaneously catapults you into 1964 and 2064.

Thee Hypnotics Come Down Heavy 03

Note annoying spiral credits, which I have yet to read properly
Note annoying spiral credits, which I have yet to read properly

Thee Hypnotics Come Down Heavy 05 (2)

I am sorry to say though that those goodies aside Come Down Heavy doesn’t really deliver, for me.  Interestingly enough though Thee Hypnotics made some high-profile friends, the Black Crowes who championed them – I saw them support the Crowes a year later and Chris Robinson produced their third LP.  It didn’t save them though.  Eventually singer James Jones, became Jim Jones and founded 1537-faves The Jim Jones Revue, channelling his inner Little Richard to great effect.

But for now I’m just gonna let them come down heavy.

646 (come) Down.

*as opposed to having to drive 40-60 miles to see anything, frequently much more to see a bigger band.

**wonderful old music pub/venue, now sadly deceased.  Christ, the gigs I saw there!

*^in my diary, so at least I didn’t share the opinion with the whole internet, or anything.  I also failed to mention that when I said hello to the guitarist afterwards, wisely I can’t help feeling in retrospect.

^I’m guessing that must sting a bit.

^^jaded old fuck that I am now.

38 thoughts on “Them Heavy People

  1. “The only other real stand-out for me is ‘Unearthed’ which is 2:28 of cosmic subterranean-homesick blues, which is like stepping into a wormhole in the space-time continuum which simultaneously catapults you into 1964 and 2064.” This statement alone sold me.

      1. The Six Million Dollar Man’s got nothing on me. These new adamantium legs are just what I needed.

        Soon, the world will be mine. And I shall sell it on EBay.

  2. I remember at Donington 1990 being given a cassette with some unknown bands recorded on it. One of those was Thee Hypnotics. Theirs wasn’t the best song on the tape but I don’t remember not liking their song either.

  3. This one’s (and Live’r Than God) are on my list. Never saw them live, but I dig their scuzzy take on the ol’ ‘blues rock’ thing. Like Mudhoney meets Free. Or something.

    You heard Jim Jones’ post Revue project? Boil Yer Blood is pretty nasty stuff and the new track is pretty sinister. Taking that scuzzy Nick Cave thing (is that possible) a bit further.

    1. No I haven’t heard BYB yet – the middle JJR LP is a 100% noisy classic in my book, ‘High Horse’ just kicks it!

      I really regret never making it to see the JJR.

      Mudhoney meets Free is bang on correct too.

      1. One of my regrets too. No excuses, either – they played here fairly regularly. Bah.

        The latest Jim Jones and The Righteous Mind track is ace. Aldecide is available on one of those fancy pre-order thingys you like!

  4. I don’t know of these people, but everything you say sends me their way. In a big way. Thaks for the heads-up on these AND The Jim Jones Review.

    Also, I can’t help but think Thee Headcoats (and any other Thee-Something bands Billy Childish had/has) when I hear their name.

  5. I think the band should have read the manual on that hot tub.

    ‘Cramming 4 sweaty dudes into this 2 person hot tub will definitely result in extreme thingy touching, although if you are going for a Kama Sutra-like picture for your band’s vinyl record labels then carry on.’

    I like the sound of (Let It) Come Down Heavy. Too bad the rest of the album wasn’t more of this.

    1. Far too nasty – they didn’t deserve that, like I say that’s not what I said to the singer either! Make a great title for my next LP though!

  6. Listening now. I dig this tune. Lo-fi, pre-cursor stoner rock? Regardless, shame the LP doesn’t deliver as a whole. How’s the one that Chris Robinson produced?

    1. I’ve never heard, or seen it – I guess nobody was listening by that point, including me. It was the ‘Southern Harmony’ tour that I saw them supporting on, so I guess they were tight with Chris and the boys.

  7. As always great story to go with a great read! That’s awesome you were reviewing stuff back than. It’s always a buzz when u discover a band no matter what age and get hooked!
    Even myself just a month ago I was blown away by The Temperance Movement when they rolled thru Tbay with the mighty Monster Truck. Bought both Temp cds at the show,one even before they started so yeah Joe I join you in the Jaded Old Fuck Club!
    As you were sir!

    1. I absolutely loved The Temperance Movement live. Their first album was good, but not near as good as their live show.

      I am hoping the new album lives up to their live show.

      1. I’ve only caught bits and pieces off YouTube, but I like what I hear. White Bear is on my list. It has a great cover, too.

      2. I’ve got it, I just haven’t spent any real time with it yet – I got one of those fancy pre-order things that I’m a total sucker for.

      3. I’ve not seen ’em yet and I haven’t spent enough time with White Bear yet either, I’ll fix that this weekend!

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