Highly Suspect hail from Massachusetts, USA and feature twin brothers Rich and Ryan Mayer as bassist and drummer, with the trio being rounded out by their best mate Johnny Stevens on lead vocals and guitar. I bet that must make band meetings quite harmonious! We take a look at their 2nd album – the recently released The Boy Who Died Wolf. NB: you might find that they have released 3 albums but the first was a compilation of 4 previously released EPs, featuring some re-recorded versions.
The album opens with “My Name Is Human” a slow malevolent fuzzed out guitar before a stoner rock groove kicks in. Whilst it’s a dark opening song, it’s brilliant and well worth the price of admission itself. After writing this piece I had a read of their Wikipedia entry which revealed this was the first single. It’s a great choice and has been nominated for a Grammy. The second song – “Look Alive, Stay Alive” sounds a bit like it’s been robbed from The Hives and bounces along with a chorus that is definitely sporting a throat full of phlegm. This is followed by “Little One” which draws inspiration from Feeder especially in the grungy chorus riff. Next up is “For Billy” which is the most straight ahead rock song, evoking thoughts of Blink-182 during their less punky moments – it breezes along quite nicely until I noticed that this is the 4th song where they managed to drop the “F-bomb”. Considering that I’m only 4 songs in at the moment, I find that a bit disappointing. I’m no prude but I found it to be a bit wearing and it detracts somewhat from the music. Their lyrics seem reasonably intelligent so it’s not a lack of vocabulary and it comes across as an attempt to prove their punk rock credentials.
“Serotonia” starts with all fuzzed up guitar and plaintive vocals before developing into another groovy rock riff, which reminds me of Clutch – never normally a bad thing. This is one of the longer songs here and it has chance to grow and develop into the centrepiece of the album. The wig out solo(s) in the middle are fantastic – plus I didn’t spot any swearing, all round good stuff! I’m not surprised that this was the second single release from this album. “Postres” has the tough gig of following that but succeeds partly by reminding me a little of Bowie’s “Suffragette City” courtesy of an insistent one note piano line. After the two minute quick-fire nature of the previous track, “Send Me An Angel” is another slow groove with hints of early Kings of Leon but with a bit more dirt under its fingernails. This is a cover of a Real Life song. “Viper Strike” is a great tirade against racists and homophobes but on the downside, makes the sweary quotient back up after a few songs without the expletives. The point made (everyone’s equal, except you, because you’re an a**hole) – I’ll let them off. If you’re after the “inspiration” here, I think they borrow from Nirvana…… At this point of the album, I’ve noticed that all their songs seem derivative of somebody else’s sound but despite that, I’ve definitely enjoyed what I’ve heard.
“FWYT” features a really dancey drum pattern and heavily effected vocals and seems like an interlude that should have positioned a lot early on the album. Penultimate song “Chicago” is very different to the rest of the album and relies on Stevens vocal and piano skills (you’ll be not surprised to find out the swearing is back). It tells the story of a failed relationship – I found it quite a moving song. The Boy Who Died Wolf closes with “Wolf” which is the 4th single to be lifted from the album and seemed a strange choice for a single. It’s not what I would call their most immediate song. The album version is a radio unfriendly near seven minute epic. It has a little riff leading into the chorus that reminds me of Wings – it seems to lift straight from “Jet”. It’s quite mellow but seems to take off around the 4 minute mark. A decent album closer but not what I would choose if I was trying to introduce people to the band.
Overall I enjoyed the album despite the swearing being a bit excessive which really did grate. Some might argue that they want originality and you could argue that only the opening song (and single) falls into that category, the band write strong enough songs that you can’t really dislike them for being influenced by other styles.
Download – My Name is Human and Serotonia
Review by Adrian Grainger