Midwest Electric is an over arching concept into the dull and grey life that permeates the existence of Lafayette, IN native Ian Gerber, the guitarist and vocalist for The Heavy Co. Featuring 7 songs, no two are quite alike. Of course there is a reason for this. It IS a concept after all...
The album kicks off with hacking cough of a four count ala Masters of Reality as the song ‘Humboldt County Waltz’ takes flight. Stating the only desire that Gerber really has is ‘a stash like Willie’s and some room to breath’ this song is more in the vain of a heavy Tom Petty rocker than your standard ‘stoner’ rock record. It does feature plenty of ‘stoner’ vibe, especially in the bass and the break down in the song, which is obviously modeled off of THC’s California riff-mongers Fu Manchu. Shaky tempos riddle the song but add to the ambience of the ‘live in room’ experience that the record is aiming for.
Track 2 is laid back, understated 3/4 time hippy tongue twister with a positive spin by the name of ‘A Groove A Mile Wide’. The first part of the song continues in the ‘Americana’ vibe that permeates through most of the albums tracks. By the end of the second chorus, however, the mood shift’s gears and the phased distortion picks up and segues into an extended solo section whose direction was directly ripped off of ‘Sky Blue Sky’ era Wilco...except not near as good. However, standing tall during the first section is the bitchin’ fuzzed out wah solo that is mentioned in the liner notes by Strange Haze/ The Golden Grass six string slinger, Michael ‘Big Sir’ Rafalowich. It might be the record’s most redeeming moment.
Following ‘A Groove A Mile Wide’ is what might be the albums boldest moment. Aptly titled, ‘Neil Young’ is a major shift in ambience for the record and a big shift in dynamics for the band in general. Using a lower pitched more or less whispered singing voice, sometimes compared to Mark Lanegan, Gerber expresses his wish to have balls like Mr. Young and then meanders somewhere into a forlorn longing for a different time and place in history. The song crescendo into a noisy guitar solo that sounds nothing like what Neil Young would play and outros into a Pearl Jam-esque cadence stating “no one knows this is somewhere”. Basically, its a song about drinking in your favorite bar, like the world needed another one of those.
Side one ends with an intsrumental which comes as some relief from the nasally, out of tune warble that Gerber exhibits over most of the record. Sounding something like a retarded (as in tempo) mash up of Jimmy Page jamming ‘Funky Boss” by The Beastie Boys and following it up with a misguided foray into Mahavishnu Orchestra era John McGlaughlin lead guitar playing, the song builds for around 6 minutes into a spacey trip out punctuated by erratic improvisation with a middle eastern modal tinge. THC pulls it off and it might be the best musical statement on the record. The solo section is more or less as it was in the studio. They did a few things right.
Side two opens with the feedback and fuzz intro of the heavy riffer ‘One Big Drag’. Probably the album’s most stoner-centric and focused offering, this song is the obvious choice for selling the record to fans of the heavier side of rock. While utilizing saturated and over the top guitar tones, One Big Drag is probably the bluesiest song on the record. It’s also the longest track. Just when you think the band will land it softly it gets weird and morphs into a funky, slowed down version of the main riff and drags on (see what I did there) for another three minutes, showcasing multiple tracks of lead guitar dribble before finally settling down into the soft finish that was hinted at before the psychedelics kick in.
Sailing Towards The Setting Sun is probably the albums most convoluted offering. It’s more of a sonic collage featuring tripped out existentialism. It’s a pretty dense dirge of psychedelic textures that bleeds into a slightly more song based, doomy outro. The vocals are rather weak and that weakness couldn’t be hid with multiple tracks stacked on each other. It’s the records most pointless and weakest track, obviously kept to fill time on side two.
Sailing Towards The Setting Sun does one thing right....it ends...but not so much as it ends but segues via a piercing, psychedelic woosh into the albums closing track, El Bango Grande. El Bango Grande is another typical THC composition in the fact that it’s not a typical ‘stoner/psychedelic’ song. Mashing a honky tonk boogie riff with spacey jazz infused rock chord progressions, the cosmic americana still bleeds out of this band. It’s an appropriate closer for the batch of songs. The jazzy, ragaesque psychedelic interlude, which seems to be a necessary part of every THC song, builds up enough steam to blast the distorted bass and slow down enough for the original riff to become a proper ‘stoner’ riff and support the gang vocal attack of the songs mantra; “We’ve been searching for something bigger than us”. The Heavy Co. doesn’t have any problem getting heard by their audience. What keeps them from gaining a new audience is that they wasted a bunch of time playing around in the studio and getting stoned. It shows. Only someone doped out of their skull would really enjoy this record, but as it turns out, a lot of their audience enjoys doing that. Next time guys, don’t get so stoned and try not to over mix the record if you are going to do it by yourselves again. Less is more, unless of course...more is more. We’ll find out.
Check out Heavy Company on facebook
And listen to the album on the player below