Whenever one uses the term “crackhead” to describe themselves, that person is usually either A: an actual abuser of crack cocaine or B: using the term facetiously while remaining oblivious to the horrors of drug addiction. Although one can never be sure, it’s safe to assume that lead singer Chase and his band of obnoxious delinquents belong to the latter category. The band’s arrogant infantile self-aggrandizing is not cute or cool but actually embarrassing and utterly pathetic.
Among the other adjectives (pirate, gypsy) Chase uses to describe the Heart Attacks, none seem apt for a bunch of suburban white kids playing dress up as ‘80s glam rockers and ripping off burnt-out novelty acts such as the New York Dolls. In addition to masquerading as drug-addled rock stars, the Heart Attacks also manage to brag about such reckless behavior as robbing people and selling alcohol to minors. Although this is clearly a case of precocious misjudgment, it is hard to believe that these young artists will not look back with embarrassing regret at this early stage of their rock-n-roll career.
With invaluable help from Rancid guitarist Lars Fredericksen, the Heart Attacks are able to produce a bevy of tight, raucous selections. Though well produced, these songs are full of cheesy cock-rock licks and obnoxious whiny vocals. Instead of sounding like a brash ambitious punk act, the Heart Attacks simply come off as annoying. The few salvageable tracks on Hellbound and Heartless are Chase’s duet with Joan Jett, “Tear Stained Letter”, and the Poison-esque “Eyes”. The band also does a mediocre job of covering the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic “Travelin’ Band”; their cover features a guest guitar solo from Hellcat founder, and Rancid frontman, Tim Armstrong.
The poppy grrrl rock tune “Tear Stained Letter” is a welcome deviation from an album of one consistently grating song after another. Chase’s toned down nasal twang provides a pleasant harmony with Jett’s signature emotive punk wailing. The two artists sound eerily sentimental as they profess their innermost feelings to each other. The piano-inflicted “Eyes” is an upbeat tune that features a pure cheese-rock riff that could have come straight out of C.C. DeVille’s back catalogue. It is complete with glam-rock backing vocals, a brief sax solo, and infectious handclaps.
As for the rest of the album, the songs range from bland, predictable retro-glam to trite unbearable garbage. “Summer of Hate” attempts to define the anti-thesis of the infamous ‘69 season, but instead falls flat on its glamorously made-up face. “City Sickness” begins with a clean guitar riff that almost screams “metal ballad” before descending into the predictable pattern of boring riffs and squealing vocals. As a whole, Hellbound and Heartless is uninspired whiny nonsense. The two or three tracks that do elicit some sort of positive response are simply not enough to make up for this atrocious effort.
While bands such as the Darkness and Wolfmother are cashing in on the neo-glam resurgence, Tim Armstrong’s fledgling label found a bunch of childish pseudo-criminals from Atlanta to continue this ill-fated trend. The Heart Attacks have their moments, but their inexperience and ability to be taken seriously will ultimately hamper their musical careers. The band’s immature antics and ambitious claims might seem cool to their small coterie of adolescents, but the group will be hard-pressed to find fans outside this circle. Although this is clearly a disappointing debut for the Heart Attacks, these feisty lads may be able to muster up some enjoyable music if given a chance. Whether they deserve this “chance,” however, is another question.