The blues might be simple in theory – I mean, one of the first things we all learn is the 12-bar blues progression – but in practice it is a genre drenched in nuance, feel, and emotion. The technical part of the music is easy, but making it writhe with passion is anything but. It takes a different kind of skill to move people. Memphis’s The Heavy Eyes claim to infuse their version of delta blues with psychedelic fuzz and late 60s heavy rock in an attempt to bring us blissfully back to a disease-free era1. Love Like Machines is the band’s fourth album, and first since 2015. Will this quartet make us writhe, or will our eyes grow heavy with weariness?
“Anabasis” has a certain seductiveness to it. It features an acoustic/fuzz arrangement that’s charming and memorable, and its swampy, sultry feel actually turns out to be a bit of a red herring, as the rest of the album fits more squarely in the lap of psychedelic stoner rock. “Made for the Age” and “Bright Light” circle around simple earworm riffs, evoking thoughts of hazy backyard summer nights. “The Profession” might be the best song here, with its rollicking drum line and eruption of fuzz that would make Fu Manchu proud. All these songs owe more to desert rock vets like Kyuss than any sort of delta blues, with a weed-enhanced, laid-back groove and suave vocals permeating all of Love Like Machines. In fact, the blues influences The Heavy Eyes claim to pay heed to are nearly nonexistent, replaced by fat guitars and psychedelic solos.
Highlights above notwithstanding, musically Love Like Machines comes and goes without drawing much attention to itself. It sounds good, and the guitar tones are great. Tripp Shumake has a super voice for the style, very charismatic, but the lyrics don’t help him out. There’s a need to make everything rhyme in such simple formats that makes it all sound very silly and junior high-ish. The lyrics in “A Cat Named Haku” are an eye-rolling example: “I see you movin’ in the dark, ‘cause you’re not very far. I don’t know who you are, so tell me who you are.” That plus the fact that the vocal arrangements are nearly identical in every song make for an album that doesn’t really have many memorable moments. Even my favorite song, “The Profession,” is full of throwaway lyrics.
It all adds up to an underwhelming experience. Focusing solely on the guitars actually results in more satisfaction than listening to the songs as wholes. Shumake and Matthew Qualls have great chemistry and stellar tone, and nearly every song has at least one classic-sounding lead break. Eric Garcia on drums and Wally Anderson on the bass prove to be a more than capable rhythm section as well, but it’s all for naught when the songwriting and lyrics come across as so, well, average. A quick perusal of The Heavy Eyes’ last album, He Dreams of Lions, shows more of the same, although not as well-produced as Love Like Machines.
You might think that the reason it is so easy to forget about Love Like Machines is because the ten songs here fly by in 30 minutes, but that’s not it. It’s simply the fact that the songs here aren’t all that memorable. The simplicity with which The Heavy Eyes approach the album, especially in the lyric department, doesn’t pay off over repeat listens. While “Anabasis” made an impression with its morose chords and arrangement, and “The Profession” works as a fuzz-rock single, the rest of the album passes by without much more than the bat of an eye, leaving one with a feeling that it’s all been done before, and better.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Kozmik Artifactz
Websites: theheavyeyesmemphis.bandcamp.com | theheavyeyes.com | facebook.com/TheHeavyEyes
Releases Worldwide: March 27th, 2020