By Mike Faloon
Luther Perkins played guitar in Johnny Cash’s backing band throughout the fifties and sixties. His style was laid back. Some called it lackadaisical. When asked about his approach Perkins responded that other guitar players spent their time looking for the right notes but he’d found them. It was a confident declaration. He knew what he wanted and how to get it; his internal sense of validation was good enough and he wasn’t distracted by extraneous pursuits (at least not on stage).
Record Heat (Wee Rock) is further proof that The Safes have that, too—an unflinching confidence in a simple, invigorating approach. And passion to burn. With songs like the opening track, “Hopes Up, Guard Down,” the Safes are as direct as ever rendering Record Heat easy to read and easier to like. Pretty hard to forget, though.
The band’s driving, grab-you-by-the collar garage pop is colored with big hooks and laced with lyrics that celebrate the people who help them weather a world that continues to disappoint. But they don’t allow frustration to yield to bitterness, and the band continues to find new takes on proven ideas, especially on side two where tracks such as “Ace for a Face” and “Hot Pursuit” breathe in unexpected places. (Other nice touches include guest vocalist Kathleen Wilson kicking “K.O.” up a notch, and the band’s dad, Frank X. O’Malley, making a cameo on baritone sax.)
Thousands of bands are pursuing the brass ring of commercial success, trying to cook up a recipe with the right blend of songs, styles, and attitudes that will resonate, strike people as authentic. Such guessing games yield a lottery seldom won. They’re all looking for what the Safes have in spades. You’ll never look back on Record Heat and have to make excuses.