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Reverend Horton Heat - Holy Roller
Album Review witten by Linda Laban

They've got songs about sex. They've got songs about drugs. They've got songs about rock'n'roll; hey, Reverend Horton Heat are rock'n'roll! You can hear it in every gurgling growl, loin- aching moan, and wildly effusive, Gretsch guitar spree that singer/guitarist Jim Heath exhumes. This career retrospective culls tracks from this rockabilly trio's three mid-'90s albums on Sub Pop, and from their two albums for current label, Interscope.

The cunningly titled Holy Roller is subtitled 24 Hits even though the Rev have only scored one hit single in the powerful steamy, lusting "One Time for Me," thus holding the term "hits" up for interpretation (though, here's a clue: the Rev and company include their instrumental ode to the wacky weed not-so-cunningly titled "Marijuana"). But there's more than just sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll to this band that, besides Heat, includes stand-up bassist Jimbo Wallace and latter-day drummer Scott Churilla, and here revisits the powerhouse chops of former skin-pounder Taz Bentley (currently of Tenderloin).

There's an ode to sophistication ("It's Martini Time"), a musing on personal hygiene ("Bath-Water Blues"), study of homosexuality ("Cowboy Love"), and a musical homage to metal ("400 Bucks"). This all adds up, of course, to a bad reputation for this Austin-based, punkabilly trio, and what do you know-- they've even got a song simply titled "Baddest of the Bad" that quickly disposes of Geoge Thorogood's ridiculous hubris. Whilst the Rev's songwriting is preoccupied with the life of a lad (and sometimes a cad), even at their most lyrically puerile, Heath's inspired guitar work transcends any juvenile shallowness.

Despite some savvy ad exec featuring the band playing in the background of some spiffy car commercial that has been blowing the socks off bland TV-land recently, the Rev remains a noncommercial venture. Neither cultish or populist, the Reverend don't pander to youth culture a la Marilyn Manson, nor have they softened up their keen retro '50s musical sensibility to fit in with any revival (hello Setzer); consequently hits still elude them. Rock'n'Roll Legend however, already has their name on its roll call.

Linda Laban (sounds@aa.net)

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