The Weight - Are Men (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Weight

Are Men (2008)

The Colonel

There are three key factors as to why county music has suffered a terrible, horrible, glistening-like-the-plastic-coated-remake-of-Speed Racer-makeover since the advent of Hank Williams, Jr. Subject matter aside, modern country music suffers from: affected vocals - no one sings with that forced baritone twang naturally; pristine and predictable musicianship - the same major chords twanged over and over again on a lap steel makes me wanna snooze; and finally, a candy-slick gloss of high production values that ignore the grit of the material.

The Weight, for some damned reason, have fallen prey to all three strikes at one point or another in Are Men, their debut full length for The Colonel records. The album is mainly comprised of country tinged rock songs, a la Lynard Skynard, with a sprinklin' of alternative rock and straight up country ballad. And it's on these ballads where the band suffers most. On opener "Like Me Better," the vocals sound a tad strained with standard country affection and the lap steel plays all the standard notes and chords to accompany a Tim McGraw song.

It seems, mainly, that the band is just having some beta-testing issues. The rhythm section seems determined to play a straight 4/4 backbeat, and on the laid-back rambler "Johnny's Song," the band is playing at their best, with a hint of Southern rock and just enough twang to carry it through. Even the lap steel is allowed to play with emotion. But for every "Johnny's Song" on the album, there's a "Had it Made" and "Man Alone" which try to inject some honky-tonk or boogie-woogie into some rip-roarin' electric guitar riffs, but end up coming across as bland modern country radio fodder.

"Closer Than A Friend," and "Hillbilly Highway" both have an aftertaste of Springsteen in the song structure and arrangements, and really give an idea of what the band is capable of. Eschewing generic country structure allows The Weight to really come together as a group of individual musicians who've formed a band. And if history has ever been a good indication, rock and roll that borrows from country usually turns out better than country that borrows from rock and roll. Next time you queue up something from Lynard Skynard, The Allman Brothers Band, Neil Young, or The Band, just think about the shitstorm that is Toby Keith, Big and Rich, or any of those other groups who reversed the influences.

The Weight may be Men, but their music could use a few rougher edges.