The Heavy: Dirty Basement Soul

"Sixteen," the greatest track on the British neo-blues band The Heavy's latest disc, sounds like what would happen if The Black Keys covered an unheard James Brown song and for some reason Tom Waits was there.

Tuesday's Pick

  • Song: "Sixteen"
  • Artist: The Heavy
  • CD: The House That Dirt Built
  • Genre: Blues-Rock
The Heavy i i

The Heavy's "Sixteen" is a minor blues-rock masterwork that's slender in theme, but mighty in execution. Will Cooper-Mitchell hide caption

itoggle caption Will Cooper-Mitchell
The Heavy

The Heavy's "Sixteen" is a minor blues-rock masterwork that's slender in theme, but mighty in execution.

Will Cooper-Mitchell

The track is lugubrious and rollicking, a minor masterwork of dirty basement soul that's slender in theme — there's a girl, she's 16, she does what she wants, Satan is somehow involved — but mighty in execution. "What the devil wants / Believe the devil gonna get," singer Kelvin Swaby vows, in the only part of the song in which something actually happens. "He gonna stretch you out / Like a tape in a cassette." The Heavy can't help it: Even its lyrical allusions are retro.

Like the early White Stripes, The Heavy sometimes threatens to cross the line between reviving and archiving. Also like the early White Stripes, it's good enough to get away with a lot, and smart enough to take full advantage. "Sixteen" doesn't sample Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You"; it takes it apart and reassembles it in a nominally different configuration. It sounds just like it, only more so.

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House That Dirt Built

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Album
House That Dirt Built
Artist
The Heavy
Label
Counter Records
Released
2009

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