“We’re from West Virginia,” says the Demon Beat’s lead singer and guitarist Adam Meisterhans during every live set. This statement about the band’s origins may seem mundane and irrelevant to most, but for the Demon Beat, being from the mountains and hills of Appalachia, it’s also a chance to tell their audience that they have something to prove. There’s a wellspring of talent waiting to be tapped in that area, but I’m putting my money on the Demon Beat breaking out and showing the world what that region has to offer.
Have you ever wished Black Sabbath were a just little bluesy? What if the James Gang had elements of heavy metal thrown in? Look no further than the Demon Beat’s latest release, Less Is Less. The band’s fourth LP refines the garage rock goodness offered on their earlier releases (2009’s Shit, We’re 23, 2010’s 1956, and 2011’s Bullshit Walks). The prodigious output from the band should be an indicator that these dudes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. If the Demon Beat keeps it up, these first four LPs will be understood in hindsight as the band just getting warmed up. But my gut tells me that many listeners will only be craving more within the first listen of Less Is Less. So even if their latest includes their best batch of songs to date, the record will be even more of a success if listeners discover the band’s back catalogue and catch one of their epic live shows.
As you might expect from the album’s title, there is nothing gratuitous to be found here. But you shouldn’t get the impression that the band is minimalist by any stretch of the imagination, either. From the pounding opening riff on the album’s opener, “I’ve Always Run”, Meisterhans is wise beyond his years, invoking the spirit of rock legends on nearly every track. Drummer Jordan Hudkins and bassist Tucker Riggleman round out the rest of the Demon Beat and prove that the band’s rhythm section is also of the highest caliber. Even in 4/4 time, there are plenty of mind-blowing fills, so listen closely. These three have always had a penchant for staying tight even when the jams get loose and more than a few of the sludgier tunes on Less is Less (“Bummer Machine” and “Bored Forever,” for example) make excellent use of the band wailing in unison.
With song titles like those found on Less Is Less, it’s clear that the band wants listeners to know where they’re from not just geographically, but musically. The Demon Beat knows the canon of rock and roll so well that they can refer to it tongue-in-cheek without looking like heretics. “Teenage Wasteland” is light years away from the production found on the Who’s “Baba O’Reilly”, but fear not, kind listeners. The distorted riffs are sure to please regardless. You won’t get the radio polish of Oasis on “Wünderwäl”, either. Feedback and fuzzed out guitars make a mockery of jangly acoustic strumming. But there’s also quite a lot of brains to go along with the brawn found on Less Is Less and the thoughtful meditations by Meisterhans on being bored and young are proof that these guys are making smart music.
“Fingers” echoes Nirvana-esque grunge in such a beautiful way that it’s hard to believe that the track wasn’t penned or produced by Cobain himself. “I Melted” channels slowed-down Dinosaur Jr, marrying melody with fuzz. “Heater” is a chaotic punk tune under two minutes that dips its toes in waters that the Germs would have found refreshing. The song also showcases the blistering drumming of Hudkins, proving that this band can spotlight more than just guitars.
I could go on and on about Less Is Less and the merits of this band’s work thus far. After all this raving about how great of a record this is, many readers will probably be wondering why the album doesn’t get a perfect score. The answer is simple: this record isn’t the Demon Beat’s masterpiece. But stay tuned, lovers of rock and roll, I am sure it is coming. When it does, the band will only need to mention that they’re from West Virginia for good measure. In the meantime, Less is Less should give you more than enough raucous rock to whet your appetite until more comes around.