Album Review: Hards Fall Hearts ‘ Live at the Merrow’

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Hard Fall Hearts – Live at the Merrow

The first impression most Australians will likely have of San Diego outfit Hard Fall Hearts is that they sound a lot like popular Melbourne trio The Living End did in their early years.

By the time track eight of this live album comes around those musical comparisons are well and truly confirmed, as Hard Fall Hearts cover The Living End’s classic ‘Second Solution’.

Recorded live in California, “Live at the Merrow” features more than 15 tracks of agreeable, foot-stomping rockabilly-punk constructed by the genre standard of guitar, upright bass and drums.

“Live at the Merrow” pulls tracks from Hard Fall Hearts’ two studio albums “Last 24 Hours” and “All Believers” and the “Die Before We Die” EP, with Social Distortion, Living End and Tiger Army influences.

Sometimes unremarkable, often inspired, the album captures the undoubted live energy of Hard Fall Hearts – Bryan Kelly, Eli Rinek and Andrew Verdugo – now almost ten years into its existence.

Kelly demonstrates his top guitar chops, particularly on tracks like ‘Devil Doll’ and catchy album opener ‘Drive All Night’, while Rinek and Verdugo ably create that trademark rockabilly rhythm section sound.

A tight sounding live act thanks to numerous American and European tours, the band cruises through ‘Carry Me Along’ and ‘Slave to Love’, while ‘Mourning After’ and ‘Dull Days, Wild Nights’ pick up the pace.

But it’s songs that deviate from the template – tunes like ‘Devil Doll’, ‘Sweet Savannah’, ‘To Remember’ and the six-minute, blues-influenced ‘The Devil Lives Downstream’ – that are some of the most interesting on the album. So too are the other cover songs.

Hard Fall Hearts offer up renditions of classics by punk pioneers The Ramones (‘We Want the Airwaves’) and Sex Pistols (‘Pretty Vacant’) and a surprising version of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’.

The “Live at the Merrow” album is rounded out by two studio tracks: ‘Find a Reason’ and the ambitious ‘The Devil Lives Downstream’, which supersedes the conventions of standard rockabilly.

Words  by Lee Oliver

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