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This Is Hardcore: The Murder City Devils – Empty Bottles Broken Hearts

Gallows guitarist Lags picks his essential hardcore and punk releases – every Thursday on TeamRock

Seattle gave birth to the biggest musical movement of the ’90s and is the home to the label that started it all – Sub Pop Records.

In 1998, the LA Times published an article titled The Rise and Fall of Grunge which attributed the end of alternative guitar music at the time to three things: the death of Kurt Cobain, Soundgarden’s break up and Pearl Jam’s falling record sales. But rather than abandon rock music altogether, Sub Pop Records continued to work with Washington State’s most promising new acts and that year, they released Empty Bottles Broken Hearts by an relatively new band from Seattle, The Murder City Devils.

Empty Bottles Broken Hearts is the follow up to The Murder City Devils’ self-titled debut, which was released on Sub Pop’s imprint Die Young Stay Pretty in 1997. While that first album was widely seen as a gritty tribute to acts like The Stooges and The Dead Boys, The Murder City Devils retained that raw flair on their second outing. The violent energy of rock and roll’s glory years bleeds into the song writing to produce 12 tracks of unstoppable snotty punk rock.

Album opener I Want A Lot Now (So Come On) has all the swagger of the meanest gang in town – tattoos, greased back hair, and switchblades at the ready. When singer Spencer Moody snarls, 'Kids are sure lookin' good in the city, I’m gonna go to a rock n' roll show', you immediately wish you were invited too, if only for a glimpse at the excitement in store. Dancin’ Shoes carries on their statement of intent: 'I’ve got my dance shoes on, and I’m feeling alright'. The biting riffs that accompany the vocals are all the more powerful when played in unison by guitarists Dann Gallucci and Nate Manny, along with bassist Derek Fudesco's rumble. All the while, Coady Willis’ high-octane drumming fuels their intensity. 

Lead single 18 Wheels is a frank account of life on the road and its strain on personal relationships. It’s also the first track to introduce the recurring theme of rock and roll’s greatest ally come worst enemy – alcohol. Lyrics like, “Never hungover, either wide awake or way too drunk”, merely hint towards beer-soaked anthems Another Round on You, Left Hand, Right Hand, Johnny Thunders and Every Shitty Thing

Musically, there are some real mood changes on Empty Bottles Broken Hearts. The opening tracks steamroll through until the middle of the record where songs like Cradle To The Grave and the bluesy Dear Hearts reveal a much more sensitive temperament. This time Moody’s painful howls emanate from the bottom of the bottle as he bares his soul with the line, 'I’ve got a preacher’s mouth, and a rock and roll heart'. The pronounced use of a Farfisa organ helps embellish the darker and more emotional side to The Murder City Devils sound. 

There's no fakery in The Murder City Devils’ music and herein lies the truth of what rock and roll is all about. Empty Bottles Broken Hearts remains the soundtrack to our self-destructive desires. See you at the bar. 

For more information on The Murder City Devils, visit their official website.

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