The Cold Stares Premiere Title-Track of New Album Head Bent

THE COLD STARES

The Cold Stares make their label debut on Small Stone Records June 16 with their second album, Head Bent. It’s a title that evokes the notion of capitulation, and particularly in the context of Southern and blues tinges the Nashville-based two-piece bring to their brand of heavy rock, also of prayer. Vocalist/guitarist/etc.-ist Chris Tapp and drummer/percussionist Brian Mullins deliver a crisp 11 tracks in 37 minutes as they follow-up 2014’s A Cold Wet Night and a Howling Wind and a series of EPs and singles, and the clearheaded traditionalism of their taut songcraft becomes one of Head Bent‘s most defining aspects. It also rocks, and that certainly doesn’t hurt its cause either.

Along the circuitous but accessible path of songs like opener “John,” “Neighbor Blues,” “God and Country” and the later “Kings,” The Cold Stares offer swagger and groove in bulk, hooks a-plenty and subtle plays at religious themes that don’t so much make an attempt at overblown social comment as acknowledge something that always seems to be in the background of American culture to one degree or another. Even the Clutch-style starts and stops of “Price to Pay” and the righteous fuzz of the penultimate “One Way Outta Here” nod in that direction before subdued closer “Break My Fall” more directly takes on the issue. I won’t profess to know the band’s affiliation or lack thereof, but just going by what they bring to the table with Head Bent, it feels like a safe guess somebody made them go to services at some point in their life, whether they still do or not.

the cold stares head bentThat underlying theme isn’t at all a detriment to the album, and if anything, it works to tie the material together in a way that might otherwise find the songs standing apart, as moods vary between a sharp, uptempo motor-thruster like “Head Bent,” the subsequent, almost doomly roll of “Neighbor Blues” and the nestle-into-mid-paced-comfort of “Caught in the Weather” later on. The record has obviously been as meticulously arranged in terms of tracklisting as the songs have been constructed and recorded — but contrary to their moniker, The Cold Stares lack nothing for energy in their execution, and whatever kind of movement a given track might offer, there always seems to be a direction in mind as the band leads the way through Head Bent‘s tidy, efficient and unpretentious course.

And while we’re talking about themes, one would be remiss not to point out the sheer level of command Tapp and Mullins bring to the material here. “Stuck in a Rut” brings forth a hook worthy of fellow Tennesseans Dirty Streets, and the sweet side B ballad “Ball and Twine” toys with Southern rock convention before arriving at a late-cut blowout riff toward its end, having accomplished what would take many bands eight minutes in a span of three. Yet, as often would be the case with this kind of release, there’s no sense that The Cold Stares are looking to convince their audience of how brash they are, or how drunk, or how sexist, and among the various histories they play toward with Head Bent, one of the most engaging is a drive toward making the conventions of style their own via the quality of their craft and their ability to draw listeners in and hold attention while making that very, very difficult task sound practically effortless.

Small Stone has the aforementioned opener “John” streaming at its Bandcamp page, and I’ve included that here as well at the bottom of the post, but you can dig into the premiere of the title-track from Head Bent below, as well as a quote from Tapp about the song and the album, which comes courtesy of the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Chris Tapp on “Head Bent”:

“Listening to a bit of Queen and always loved ‘Tie Your Mother Down,’ so started writing with that in mind. The music just sounds like bikes to me. I’ve always had hot rods and bikes and wanted to do a tribute song to all the good people in those communities. Big part of my cancer recovery was getting my mind right, and just riding, nothing like the focus and peace it brings. The bike and gear head community is so much about family and respect, and just love for the machine. Head Bent is that feeling of 80 mph wind twisting your neck down the highway.”

Releases June 16, 2017.

The Cold Stares is:
Chris Tapp: vocals, stringed instruments, keys
Brian Mullins: drums and percussion

The Cold Stares, “John”

The Cold Stares website

The Cold Stares on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records website

Small Stone on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

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