Review: “70’s Hits From The Pit” by (hed)p.e.

You know me then you know I really have no friends, Get a high a lot, I drink and drive a lot, The innocent they die a lot, Now don’t be fooled when you see me smile a lot, Cause I go punk rock, blow up ya’ whole block…” ~ “Wake Up” by (hed)p.e.

Having gone straight punk rock by going DIY and Independent with 2005’s “Only In Amerika“, (hed)p.e. vocalist Jared Gomes became as he describes it a small business owner, no longer needing a label to back his vision of the bands sound. In turn, he’s been able to back himself and that has allowed the band, whatever the line up, to spend the better part of the past 20 years after escaping the major label world touring the Globe, something that has to be commended. 

At this point, twenty six years after having formed in 1997, pretty much every base in the (hed)p.e. discography has been covered – a live album in 2008’s “The DIY Guys” with an accompanying DVD, a couple of best of albums, a collaborative album in 2022’s “Worldwide Califas“, a reggae inspired album in “Stampede“, a split EP with label mates Dropout Kings and even the return of original members Chad “Chizad” Benekos and Doug “DJ Product © 1969” Boyce returning as guests on 2020’s “Class Of 2020 – with the exception of the covers album and a record of demos spanning their career like “Rare Ass Shit” from Suicide Silence. If you’re a fan, that would be awesome as for example there are a couple of versions of “Stepping Stone” that aren’t the version that got released on “World Wide Orphans” floating around in internet land.  

There are a couple of covers in 1968’s “Cross Town Traffic” by Jimi Hendrix and 1973’s “Sabbra Cadabra” by Black Sabbath that have been previously released and would have been a nice addition to this collection, however due to those being done during their time signed to Jive Records it might be difficult for those to see the light of day on a new album. Instead these cuts are all new, with the current line up of the band, vocalist Jared Gomes, bassist Kurt Blankenship, guitarist Nathan Javier and drummer Jeremiah “Trauma” Stratton and very much the influences from Gomes youth.

Naturally “70’s Hits From The Pit” starts with a trio of classic Punk Rock cuts from Sex Pistols, The Ramones and The Clash which plays into the hands of the ethos of the post 2004 era of (hed)p.e. perfectly. “Pretty Vacant” finds Gomes re-creating the snotty nosed approach of Johnny Rotten with a little more Pop and a little less Punk with the addition of a sing-a-long style backing vocal in the back end, the raw edge of the riff ensuring that this is not a note for note rendition but a largely faithful cover. The same can be said of “I Wanna Be Sedated“, the pair feeling a little bit safe and perhaps missing the opportunity for a breakout with a little bit of turntable action or something. It is with “I Fought The Law” however where the album really comes to life with a part Punk art Reggae inspired rendition that has a little more soul and more fun to it. Again, the same can be said of “Heart Of Gold” by Neil Young, the band showing some more of their musical prowess by taking the song into Bob Marley territory to great effect. Gomes harnesses his inner Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies for the rendition of “Uncontrollable Urge” by Devo, changing up the vocal performance for a stone cold winner that would be a great addition to the bands live set, even if it was just for a verse and chorus. “Margaritaville” is classic hangover music to relax and unwind to, perhaps the inspiration for a holiday to Jamaica or another episode of Death In Paradise, lacking a little punch perhaps but there is nothing wrong with that. Anyone who has seen (hed)p.e. live in the past decade will know that between cuts they like to jam and this rendition of “A Horse with No Name” is a classic example that. Funky with a heavy bass sound and a blend of rap and sung vocals, the guitar and drums adding tasteful rhythms to get down to before an eclectic solo in the back end that is a nice touch.

Generally, cover albums have a tendency to be an eclectic and eccentric mix of songs that end up sounding good on their own but not necessarily as a collective as the mash together styles and genres from all over the place. The opposite is true here. “70’s Hits From The Pit” works as a whole because the songs have been well chosen and fit well together, the band using the same guitar tone and drum sound so that you get a nice level of consistency throughout the record. It actually sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a new series of classic 70’s crime drama Starsky & Hutch so someone should get Netflix on the phone. “Fire And Rain” by James Taylor has a classy bit of melodica action in the the latter half that again throws back to what the band do in the live arena before “American Pie” by Don McLean does like wise, taking the Rock classic and injecting a healthy dose of Reggae, making it both fun and different. The fellowship of mellowship will be on the phone about “Breakdown” as the chorus maintains the impact and faithfulness to the original while the chorus finds the band once again in Bob Marley territory. The irony of “The Joker” is that it feels lyrically like Gomes life story being played out and brings an instant smile that doesn’t leave thanks to those “woohoo” moments which are hilarious. Arguably the best of these cuts is “Mama Told Me” by Three Dog Night because the lyrical tale is one that plays into the style of (hed)p.e. original works and so there is a certain vibe to it that isn’t heard elsewhere that adds to the fun. Last but by no means least “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” brings the curtain down in style and ends a collection that makes for really easy, chilled out listening [7/10]

Track Listing

1. “Pretty Vacant” (Sex Pistols cover)
2. “I Wanna Be Sedated” (The Ramones cover)
3. “I Fought The Law” (The Clash cover)
4. “Heart Of Gold” (Neil Young cover)
5. “Uncontrollable Urge” (Devo cover)
6. “Margaritaville” (Jimmy Buffett cover)
7. “A Horse with No Name” (America cover)
8. “Fire And Rain” (James Taylor cover)
9. “American Pie” (Don McLean cover)
10. “Breakdown” (Tom Petty cover)
11. “The Joker” (Steve Miller Band cover)
12. “Mama Told Me” (Three Dog Night cover)
13. “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” (Paul Simon cover)

70’s Hits From The Pit” by (hed)p.e. is out now via Suburban Noize Records

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