Thunderbitch brings in new era of Rock ’n’ Roll
In today’s rough-and-rumble, turbulent music scene where only the loudest gets heard, it’s often hard to distinguish which music is actually well-sung and which music is simply balls-to-the-wall vociferous. We generally mistake hype music for something deep and powerful simply because the bass drop hits your ears like a freight train or because the DJ mixed in “Wonderwall” by Oasis.
However, not many have perfected the art of being a powerhouse of loud and well-composed. Enter vocal behemoth and guitar shredder Brittany Howard.
With raging success in the mainstream with her outfit, Alabama Shakes, Howard brings the pain like a late ‘70s wrestling champ. Her deep and boisterous vocals tear through shredding guitar riffs and bluesy scales like a mama grizzly mauling a fresh spawning salmon. She has moments of being lofty and angelic with her voice, like in the title track of Alabama Shakes’ latest album “Sound & Color” but can turncoat to burning shrieks of hellfire as demonstrated in “Give Me All Your Love.”
Now, less than a year from Howard’s lucrative release, she’s letting go of all that glitters with her own raw take on the rock genre. Thunderbitch is an outfit entirely dedicated to homage post-modern rockabilly strains with a touch of punk phrases. This unleashed take on Howard’s vocal styles makes you question just how much pent-up energy she was holding back when performing for Alabama Shakes. At times, her shrills and growls channel the psychotic brooding of her inner angst. It’s as if the tethered ghost of Kurt Cobain possessed her, and at times, it’s terrifying.
It’s clear that there wasn’t much more put into this solo project than the idea of rocking out as hard and as loud as possible. In fact, the only thing said on the bio page of the band is “Thunderbitch. Rock ’n’ Roll. The end.”
“I just wanted to rock and roll,” Howard repeats on the track “I Just Wanna Rock n Roll.”
However, to allude to my point earlier, this album is not without its musical delicacies; it’s not just loud noises. Twin guitars often fight for the spotlight with plucked riffs in the background of caustic cymbal crashes and wailing organ trills. The arrangements push the limits of sound and soul.
The lyrics are comical and easy-going as much as they are existential and doomful. While the opening track “Leather Jacket” describes a “f—– cool” jacket that Howard says will only be removed by “rotting off her bones,” another song describes hanging out with her best guy friend all casual and sweet.
The rock ’n’ roll tribute delves into the scruples of the genre; it’s clear in the song titles alone. “I Don’t Care,” “Wild Child,” “I Just Wanna Rock n Roll” and “Leather Jacket” all define the basic principles of old-school rock. Every lyric is carefully placed to convey what Elvis Presley might sound like if he were born in a cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood in the mid-to-late ‘90s.
With Thunderbitch, the image of worry-free, reckless romping, overturning tables and setting fire to shift is loud and clear. Although there are no tour plans for the band, its energy can only lead to a live show unmatched by any other. The album is a mildly great stepping stone into the deep, emotional-driven mindset of Howard.