Published Oct 30, 2015Over the past two decades, Timmy V. Lampinen has kept himself pretty busy. He's put out sinister garage-punk with bands like Epileptix and Human Eye, he's received a Kresge Artist Fellowship for his work in music and, most importantly, he's acted as a mascot for Detroit's rock'n'roll underground.
The Michigan native's latest offering is fittingly coming out on Jack White's Third Man Records, and like 2012's Raw Sewage Roq, its songs are all cut from the same dirty cloth. Still, Heartless Heathen feels way bigger than the trio's previous efforts. Album opener "Get Up, Get Out" is a blistering call to action, while the mournful anthem "Hey Eddie" touches on the frustration of loss. Vulgar's commanding yet versatile voice remains captivating throughout the project, and often recalls the soulful weirdness of Captain Beefheart in its conviction. The band's flexibility is perhaps clearest, though, on marching ballad "Please Don't Be Going," Timmy's heartbroken plea to a lost lover.
One hang-up is that for all of its veteran sophistication, Heartless Heathen never truly sets itself apart from the work of its rock forefathers. What the album lacks in innovation though, it makes up for in tight, varied songwriting. It's not important that Heartless Heathen isn't breaking new ground — it's a testament to the consistency of Timmy Vulgar, who at this point is making it look easy. (Third Man Records)