Those Crosstown Rivals prove Rock n Roll is still very much alive with the new album “Hell and Back”
Pumping fists, loud drums, squealing guitars, cold beer, stale smoke, blood, sweat, and tears. Not only does that describe the atmosphere of the last time I saw Those Crosstown Rivals (TCR) play a live show, it’s all the things that make Rock n Roll great. Add hard working, determined, passionate, and talented to the word bank; and you have all the right ingredients needed to make a REAL rock n roll band. Well, Those Crosstown Rivals have successfully met all of those credentials and their new album, Hell and Back, is proof that rock n roll will never die.
First and foremost, Hell and Back successfully does what a lot of records have trouble doing; it harnesses the energy, passion, and emotion of a live performance and seamlessly translates that through this album. It will only take you 35 seconds (check me, I tested it) into this album before you have to make a decision: One, play it safe and just stick to listening to your local “rock” stations, or buckle up and get ready for a ride through the southern streets of Kentucky at 200mph; leaving nothing behind but fire and smoke. TCR wastes no time in making it very clear what they’re bringing to the table on this album with the title trackHell and Back. Imagine a boxing match; round one, bell rings, gloves touch, BAM! Right outta the gate you get hit with a left/ right combo that leaves yours face numb and your ears ringing; you now know you’re in for one helluva fight. Oh, did I mention that your opponent is the devil? “The Devil stood before me, snarling, bloody grin, I said you picked you picked a fight, you ain’t gonna win. I’ll go to hell when the whiskey drowns me and I stop living fast, I’ll go when Kentucky sends me so you can kiss my ass.” Boom. Lights out, Lucifer; you just got knocked the f**ck out! This track isn’t about fighting with your demons or anything like that though, this is song is about fighting for your family, your loved ones, they’re lives. This track, like a handful of other TCR tracks (new and old) was written by Erica Minks, Bryan’s wife. Erica was literally fighting for her life most of last year during the making of the album. These lyrics are more than just words; they are the battle cry of someone refusing to give in, refusing to quit, and eventually coming out on top. You think these boys are tough? I wouldn’t bet against Erica either; she’s already proven you’ll lose.
This album, consisting of 8 tracks, is a beast of a rock n roll record from start to finish. Fast-paced, heavy, bass riffs lay the foundation for this rowdy album, while the drums hit with so much force you can feel it in your chest and the loud, squealing, decibel-busting guitars riffs perfectly weave in and out of the tracks like a man-possessed and running from the law. Technically speaking, this album is broken up into two sides: The first four songs show the fear of the unknown; when the sun comes up, are things going to be forever changed? Your nervous, anxious and angry; hanging by a thread not knowing what tomorrow brings and you refusing to accept anything different. The Ugly Side may be the most heartfelt, emotional song on this album. Look past the fuzzy, screaming guitars, and the deadly, piercing drums, and take a real hard listen to the lyrics; they are haunting, horrific, emotional, and beautiful. “I kissed your lips, before they took you away, looked you in the eyes but couldn’t find the words to say. I’ve never felt so alone laying in a hospital floor, covered in your blood, I can’t take this shit no more.” That’s pure emotion, pure heartbreak, because it’s real; TCR isn’t afraid to show there vulnerabilities, their real sides, I hope you’re prepared.
The second half of this album is more about remaining positive and acknowledging the fact that some things will never change; you just have to accept the facts, learn to deal, remain optimistic and continue living your life; “I live this day, I live it just for you, just to get by and to get on through” (Look at Me). You can’t forget to enjoy life either, whether it’s reminiscing about past memories like in The Diary: “I’ve got a Lucero record spinning on my mind, the one we fell in love to on those summer nights” or reiterating your feelings to the one you love like in the pedal steel driven ballad The Rain: “You know there ain’t no times like the good times. When it rains it rains for a while but leave me here today with one thing, just leave me here today with your smile.” Damn boys. Underneath all the hair, beards, tattoos, scars, and sweat-drenched clothing lies a heart; a big one at that. Who knew!? The final track on this album, Blood, Sweat and Tears, is a rock n roll anthem of sorts that I challenge you not to like. On a record where the track listing is laid out like chapters of a book, Blood, Sweat and Tears is the perfect conclusion. It’s a foot-stomping, fist-pounding tune that will leave you singing the chorus on repeat in your head after the first listen. It’s pure unabashed rock n roll at its finest.
This album isn’t very long, it only consist of 8 tracks but those 8 track mesh together so perfectly it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Those Crosstown Rivals accomplished exactly what they set out to do with this album; play damn good, loud, wild, southern, rock n roll. Don’t be surprised when after the album ends, you catch yourself starting it right back over from the beginning; it’s that good and deserves its own place in any rock n roll or punk rock fan’s collection. Want to know how they were able to bring the heat to this album similar to the intensity of their live shows? All the instrumentation except for a couple leads, keys, and pedal steel were recorded live, in a room, with just the four of them present; every song was recorded in 1-3 takes. This album is definitely on my radar for a best of list of 2014; only one question remains for the boys from Kentucky, “Where we going from here?”
Those Crosstown Rivals are: Bryan Minks (guitar/vox) Cory Hanks (bass) Nick Walters (guitar) and TJ Taylor (drums). However, one person who doesn’t get enough credit for their part in this band (and putting up with this gang of misfits) is Erica Minks. As I said previously, Erica is responsible for writing a handful of the songs TCR has published. Grab a digital copy of Hell and Back now from any of the following and pre-order the album today!
Hell and Back
The Ugly Side
Be a Man
The Diary (90 mph)
Look At Me
Blood Sweat and Tears