Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em review by Reverend Horton Heat

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  • Released: Jan 1, 1990
  • Sound: 10
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.6 (5 votes)
Reverend Horton Heat: Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

Sound — 10
The Reverend Horton Heat's debut album, after blazing onto the Dallas club circut five years earlier, is the grittiest, and rawest rock n' roll album since The Stooges' self titled LP over 20 years prior. The album is a mix of straight forward rockabilly in the tradition of Johnny Cash, the Stray Cats and Chuck Berry, up through an eastern flare surf vibe modeled after Dick Dale, to the Reverend's self coined style of psychobilly, a mix of rockabilly and punk. The album kicks in with the surf instrumental Bullet, by the end of which Jim "Reverend Horton Heat" Heath establishes himself as a classic, no bullshit rock n' roll guitarist. The trio rips through 11 more of their own compositions, including mid tempo blues songs such as Bad Reputation, It's A Dark Day and Eat Steak, faster, more agressive psychobilly tracks such as I'm Mad, and a particularly strong song based around a pounding African drum riff, and a spanish-esque slow triplet groove riff, called Marijuana. The album is as varied in styles as rock itself was from 1955 to 1985.

Lyrics — 9
The lyrics are exactly what they should be for a rockabilly band: witty lines about girls, cars and pounding down the drinks. The lyrics aren't well thought out, nor should they be, but they are damn catchy, with lines like: "You've got bright red lips and a pretty face / a rose tattooed in a private place" all over every song. A lot of the album's lyrics are tounge in cheek, in particular those of the slow blues song Eat Steak, which goes into great detail of the process of slaughtering cows to be eaten. You won't find any mind blowing thought out lyrics here from people like Neil Peart and Steve Harris, but you will find some truly badass, having a good time, rock n' roll lyrics.

Overall Impression — 9
20 years and 10 albums later, I must say SEIYGE is still the essential Reverend Horton Heat album. While few of the songs have survived the test of time in the Rev's live set (only Bad Reputation, Psychobilly Freakout and Marijuana are still played, all of which are staples of the Rev's live show), all the cuts on the album are solid tracks. The only real low point is Big Dwarf Rodeo, an song without really any direction. The standout track in terms of popularity was the single, Psychobilly Freakout, a song which defined the new genre of psychobilly, a super-fast style of rockabilly, often played with guitar distortion and punk drum beats, a style which would be revisited on many songs from the Reverend, such as the Jimbo Song, and Big Sky. My personal favorite songs on the album are I'm Mad and Marijuana, both of which truly show of each band member's chops on their own instrument. I would undoubtedly buy this album if it were lost or stolen. I've been listening to it over and over for well over 3 years, and it sounds just as fresh as the first listen.

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    great review buddy, awesome band, my favourite albums are lucky number seven, and the holy roller compilation