CD Review of Oddball by Heap
Recommended if you like
The Replacements, Cheap Trick, Young Fresh Fellows
Label
Rave On Records
Heap: Oddball

Reviewed by Jason Thompson

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I
f you’ll recall, not so long ago here on Bullz-Eye we had a little feature which highlighted some of the best albums you’ve probably never heard. One of my picks was NYC group Heap and their debut album On the Cheap. Well, since that release, they’ve put out a live disc and have happily returned with a new studio offering called Oddball. For anyone who loved the first album, this one’s basically a great continuation of that sound, playing right along with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” ethic. More groups should follow that lesson these days, but thankfully we at least have Heap happily doing their thing just like they did before.

And yeah, you’re still going to hear that good old Replacements influence. Hey, that’s actually a good thing, considering the ‘Mats are probably going to never rear their collective heads again. Plus, we’re talking classic ‘Mats influence here, not really any of that later stuff, which while good, was basically Paul Westerberg ego trippin’. So take a listen to “Explode Tonight” and relive the greatness of Heap doing their own take on Let It Be or Tim.

Yet it’s not all about that influence per se. While it’s in there in the notes, Heap is its own entity. The stunning “When They’ll Be Gone” is all classic NYC swagger and Tim Heap’s wry observations on life and all its mundane fascinations. The chorus alone has classic written all over it, and why these dudes aren’t on the fucking radio all over the place is one of life’s great mysteries.

“Greed is not a virtue the last time that I checked / The world is out to hurt you, it’s no wonder you get wrecked,” sings Tim on the opening lines of the title track. His advice is to just shake it all off and keep on doing the good thing. These observations are then broken up with Dave Merrill’s cookin’ instrumental, “Frank Black Flag,” featuring some serious shred work by guitarist George Chambers.

Heap then switches gears a little bit for the semi-twangy “Like Water,” which is weepy and wistful and shows the band successfully navigating a bit of a different sound. In Heap’s hands, everything pretty much works. They don’t over-extend themselves, and the light experimentation they do mess around with never gets away from them. But then again, they’re really cool when they’re cranking out butt-rockin’ boogie like “Too Dumb,” which, like “Women” on the album prior, is just classic Heap through and through.

“I Always Go Too Far” is perhaps the best song here under The Replacements’ influence. It’s hard not to hear Westerberg’s shadow hanging around this tune, but again, that’s not a negative thing at all. It isn’t hard to imagine Westerberg wishing he wrote a song about rock and roll as wry as this album’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Surprisingly, it’s not a big rave-up, but a medium-tempo tune with a big heart and soaring chorus. Just the kind of thing ol’ Paul enjoyed doing back in the good old days.

Oddball closes with George Chambers’ “My Band,” a ramshackle, loose-as-a-goose good time in which we learn that “My band saved my life tonight.” Well, if anything, it’s better than Elton John’s similarly expressed sentiment (I’m lookin’ at you, sugar bear) and caps off a really great album. So let’s all welcome back Heap, and thank ‘em for bringing all of us some more good old NYC rock. Needless to say, there are plenty of bands from that great city, but Heap always has a good time and a fun sound ready to go for anyone, anywhere. Here’s hoping for more.

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