Music News

The Reverend Horton Heat

The Reverend Horton Heat has been going downhill for so long, it's difficult to remember exactly what made the band worthwhile in the first place. And it's obvious they don't remember either, or else they might have hit the brakes before landing at the bottom, which is exactly where the group has ended up with Spend a Night in the Box. Sure, Jim Heath and the boys released one of the finest records to come out of Dallas, 1993's The Full-Custom Gospel Sounds of the Reverend Horton Heat, but even if you throw in 1990's Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em and half of 1994's Liquor in the Front, the bad far outweighs the good. Face it, the Rev's been coasting for much of his career; the fact that last year's best-of Holy Roller is the band's best effort in six years says, well, everything. It's Martini Time (1996) was a dreadful attempt to grind the already dull lounge ax, and the even worse Space Heater (1998) was space filler and little else. Spend a Night in the Box, if nothing else, makes those two albums listenable in comparison. You can listen (sort of) to the disc a dozen times, and not one note will sink in.

Which, if you think about it, is better than the alternative. Seriously, I can't imagine a fate worse than having to walk around with lyrics like "You're a girl who can move it without a doubt/If you're gonna build a barn then build it stout" (from the whole-lotta-nothing "Whole Lotta Baby") stuck in my head. Oh wait, I can -- having to listen to the album they came from any longer than it takes to finish this review. Boring? It's like listening to three guys having a monotonous and repetitive conversation about watching other people watch paint dry.

Heath just sounds too old to be singing about "The Girl in Blue" and sexy little mamas and "twisted cats and kittens" and lskjfdsl…. Sorry, I dozed off for a moment. And he looks it, too: In the photo on the back cover of the album, it appears that either bassist Jimbo Wallace's or drummer Scott Churilla's pop shoved his way into the picture, horning in on his kid's fun. Not that there's much fun to be had on Spend a Night in the Box. The band's a parody of its former self now, motionlessly going through the motions. "Big D Boogie Woogie" is nothing more than an unctuous bit of chamber of commerce fluff: "Greenville, Commerce, Elm Street too/There's always something cool to do." (It's amazing Heath is able to play guitar with his hand that far out.) Later, he pulls off the difficult bed-dead-head rhyme scheme on "The Party in Your Head," a party at which Heath has apparently stayed waaay too long if he thinks he's still being clever. Of course you could have said the same thing four years ago.

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Zac Crain