Thelma and the Sleaze
Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Thelma and the Sleaze’s ‘Holey Water’ Is the Rock Album We Need

Thelma and the Sleaze continue their reign as the queens of loud, gaudy, disreputable rock ‘n’ roll on Holey Water, one of the funnest rock albums of the year.

Holey Water
Thelma and the Sleaze
Dial Back Sound
1 September 2023

This, kids, is rock and roll. Full throttle. Not giving a damn what anyone thinks. Holey Water, the third studio album from Thelma and the Sleaze, takes no prisoners and suffers no fools. Recorded down in Water Valley, Mississippi, over two sessions a year apart between May 2021 and 2022, Holey Water is another product of the damned pandemic and its resulting lockdown. But this isn’t some self-reflective, ponderous, chin-scratching rumination on the human condition.

Thelma and the Sleaze guitarist and vocalist LG had spent her time in isolation writing and demoing ideas in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Once she was ready, she sent up the TATS signal to the rest of the gang: Bailey “Pigpen” Chapmen (drums, background vocals), Heather “Big Show” Gillis (bass, background vocals), and Amaia Aguirre (keys, background vocals), and called in reinforcements Helen Gilley (background vocals), Susan Lee (background vocals), Henry Westmoreland (saxophone), and Robert Patton (bass, co-producer).

The result is one of the year’s most surprising, ass-kicking, ass-shaking, fist-pumping, head-banging, satisfying, and fun rock albums. There’s a left-field homage to girl-group rock ‘n’ roll over here (“Long Time”), an unholy garage-grunge-new wave-punk rave-up over there (opener “Black Car”), greasy psycho-sax-fueled funk punk (“Stay”), a Bon Scott-era AC/DC meets Jagger’s Midnight Rambler crawling through a back alley creeper (“Leather Nights”), 1980s Southern pop noir (“Suspect”), and, of course, if the B-52s ever were forced to listen only to Dio-era Black Sabbath for six straight weeks (“Vulture Dog”).

There are softer moments on Holey Water… well, one. “Hands Tied” floats along on a wave of melancholy powered by an undeniable, yet painful, hook, while “Faster” starts as a crawling blues but inevitably ends up collapsing in a ball of Chuck Berry-fueled sweat.

Thelma and the Sleaze have finally perfected their brand of Southern sleaze-rock throughout the better part of the last decade. Each release has built upon the previous, as any great band’s work should. With Holey Water, they’ve given us the rock ‘n’ roll album we sure as hell don’t deserve but the one we need, now more than ever.

RATING 8 / 10