by: Doc Jeffurious Higgason
Album: Volume 1 EP
Those of you who were kids in the 80’s and 90’s might recall a channel on television they called the ‘MTV’.
For a full lesson on that I encourage you to check out the ‘Take Back MTV’ episode of Portlandia. However, for our purposes here, let’s talk about Saturday nights on MTV all those years ago.
Each week, host Riki Rachtman would take us through the latest and greatest in heavy metal and hard rock on ‘The Headbanger’s Ball’. We would save our greasy dollars and go see these bands, returning home minus a bit of hearing but nevertheless rocked for eternity. Some of us who spent their formative years staring at that show week after week eventually went on to form bands and spent years performing in dive bars, outdoor parties, band battles and everywhere in between.
However, we are now growing old and weary. Still, there are so many of these misbegotten, dispossessed children of Riki Rachtman still out there rocking nearly 3 decades later, drubbing the notion that the party can in fact go on forever, despite the fact that hairlines and knees do not.
Washington D.C. based ‘Thirteen’ is undoubtedly one of these bands. Drawing influences from iconic groups such as Alice In Chains, Guns N’ Roses, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, Thirteen is solidly based within the sphere of heavy guitar driven rock. The kind that can light up a tingle in your loins if you sit close enough to the speakers.
Thirteen strives to carrying on that hard rock tradition with the release of their debut EP modestly titled ‘Volume 1’.
I always like to talk about the first track. It’s the first impression that sets the tone for the rest of the thing. It’s the thing that allows me to decide whether I want to continue further, more times often than not I proceed but only with strong demurral. In this case, I wasn’t completely disappointed. ‘Nightingale’ fires forth with guitar squeelies ala Zakk Wylde and vocals that have a whisper of Ozzy. Thirteen noticeably wears their influences on their sleeves like a tight fitting leather arm band.
The only criticism would be that there is a dangerous area a band can run into being so influence-driven. It’s sort of like having a web page where everyone rips off the writing style of Hunter Thompson (yeah I know. But it’s an apt example, hang with me, there is a point). It’s amusing to see everyone else ape and mimic a particular style but in the end no new ground is discovered. It just continues to limp around and mumble nonsense about golf shoes. The material on this EP, while being new, can lean heavily upon things already done, not only by other bands but by Thirteen themselves on other songs throughout the EP. There are at least 3 out of the 10 tracks where the melody is so reminiscent of other songs contained within, I had to double check what I was listening to.
The first single, ‘The Siren’ was produced by, Rocco Guarino and in a short period of time beat its way to the top of the D.C. rock charts, landing squarely at the #1 slot. So, yeah, not too shabby for the first recorded release of an unsigned band. The song’s popularity was no doubt driven in part by its theme. Singing about a sexy chick, expressing masturbatory desires of touching her and her eventual acquiescence. Complete with a “face melting” solo, this possibly could qualify as the most rocking-est rock song of the last decade. Possibly. All Thirteen needs now is a duet with Lady Googaw, or whoever and their legacy is set. HAW!
One more definite highlight that caught my attention is the song ‘Romeo Kiss’. It’s catchy even!
“Feel out of control! Think I’ll start a fire! To burn this memory.”
How Shakespearean! *swoon* It has the drive and infectiousness of anything that came off of Stone Temple Pilots ‘Core’ album way back in 1991. Oddly enough as I type this I am reading that this collection of songs was actually recorded Scott Weiland’s Lavish Studios. Ooooh! Spooky.
Finally, let’s talk about the softer side of Thirteen. Any sane laudation to 90’s hard rock must contain a minimum of two power ballads, right? ‘Time’ is the one that I had to listen to over and over. Normally I hate power ballads, there is another one on the EP, but I hated this one less. The guitar work on this song is very good and worth a listen. The mood it invokes is one of bittersweet, acid washed nostalgia.
In summation, Thirteen, while extremely derivative in many areas is not without their charm. Any fan of late 90’s alternative hard rock would certainly enjoy ‘Volume 1’. Within the first few listens of them I decided to the give them a small chance. They proved that they are certainly chock-full of talent and talent that is something that must be recognized.
Also, you can’t argue with their fan base which is clearly very strong. I can predict with confidence that if there is any amount of fairness in the universe we will all be hearing more from Thirteen. Their website hints at the rapidly upcoming release of the band’s first full length release ‘Save Rock n Roll’ followed by a stint on the road in support of the album. For more on the band or to just keep up with their doings dial up their web page: www.thirteenband.com