Rev. Horton Heat - Space Heater (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Rev. Horton Heat

Space Heater (1998)


                Just over a decade into their career, Rev. Horton Heat would release Space Heater. While the band had always been known for their powerful and energized live performances, they’d never been able to capture that same energy in the studio. Perhaps, in an attempt to make things more spontaneous, the band entered the studio to record this album without any pre-written material. Their goal being to write thirty songs in thirty days and put the best of them on the album, they were successful in this endeavor with sixteen of the thirty ending up on the album.

The album opened with, “Pride of San Jacinto”, an instrumental that allowed the Rev. to showcase why he was, and still remains, one of the most underappreciated guitarists in rock. While it’s true the Rev. isn’t known for his riffs like Tony Iommi or his sea changing solos like Eddie Van Halen, it does take a special kind of guitarist to be able to pick a guitar in the rockabilly style. Anyone who has ever seen Rev. Horton Heat live and heard his story about the time Brian Setzer was doing blow with Eddie Van Halen, is likely to know that to be true … even if only anecdotally speaking.

Space Heater, like many Rev. Horton Heat albums, doesn’t break a lot of new ground. If we’re being honest, most rockabilly and psychobilly bands aren’t known for pushing their genre in strange new directions. But, the band does keep things interesting. They do this, mostly, with their energy and Rev. Horton Heat’s sense of humor. You get a sense of both on tracks like “Lie Detector”, “Mi Amor”, and “Baby, I’m Drunk.” As anyone who has listened to this album, or any others in the bands catalog, these guys aren’t Bad Religion nor are they The Cure. This isn’t the band you come to when you’re pissed at the world or you’re depressed. They can certainly play that role, but the band functions best as just good time rockabilly.

In comparison to It's Martini Time, the more spontaneous nature of how this album was recorded is enormously beneficial to its sound. This was especially true, given that the bands releases since signing to Interscope had been more subdued. Then again, when two of the three albums you released before signing to a major were produced by Gibby Haynes and Al Jourgansen respectively … there aren’t many producers you can choose that won’t make you sound a little more subdued. The band would return to a more stripped down sound on their next studio album, produced Butthole Surfers guitarist Paul Leary.

Rev. Horton Heat is a band that, if the music world is just, will be remembered decades from now. Their discography is quite varied, mostly based on who their producer was at the time. But, no matter who was behind the board capturing the band. The songs were always there as Jim Heath is one of the finest songwriters to come out of the rockabilly scene in the late 20th century. No, he may never have the name recognition of Brian Setzer or as much admiration for his abilities as a guitarist as Deke Dickerson. But, he and his band have always made solid albums that you can have a great time listening to, and Space Heater is no exception.