The world doesn't make rock bands like it used to, does it? Hell, we hardly make them at all. Thank heaven—or Raleigh—for The Bleeding Hearts, the canister around the Saint Bernard's neck, providing an instant tonic for those suffering through a rock-less malaise. On Divorcing New York, the third LP from the Hearts, the band offers everything you want from basic rock 'n' roll bluster: riffs, hooks and humor, all simmering in the unmistakable air of Saturday night.
Entering decade two, The Bleeding Hearts are still a local staple that have always hinted at something better. They come damn close to delivering their perfect gem on the new Divorcing New York. Their blend of power-pop punch, classic-rock swagger and garage-rock grime gels here in exceptionally catchy rockers, bolstered by some of Sam Madison's smartest writing to date. He's no Leonard Cohen, but he does send choice couplets and brutal barbs flying.
Nowhere is that more true than on "Search & Destroy," a blues-bruiser that suggests Kiss at their cock-rockingest. "Don't even try to understand me/just take a lick of the sweet hard candy," sings Madison. "She doesn't know/she's in danger/she took a ride with a real Lone Ranger." The chorus is killer, and it sets up a high-flying lead. The joyous abandon makes the satirical smirk that much more enjoyable.
Though "Search & Destroy" alone is worth the cost of admission, the entire album's strewn with great tunes. The deceptively jaunty jangle of "Bad Decisions" runs quickly from courtship to divorce without self-pity, while the title track embraces a glam-punk sound reminiscent of something Richard Bacchus and Jesse Malin might've done back in D Generation.
The divorce with New York is a bittersweet parting, indicated by the nostalgic "St. Marks Saturday Night." A travelogue of East Village spots from the Continental and St. Marks to Manitoba's, the tune finds Madison chasing a fun-loving hook-up. "I can't wait to fill you with delight," he confesses. "Don't remember Sunday when I got to sleep at noon/but as I recall it ended much too soon."
It's hard not to think of Thin Lizzy when you hear "The List." In laying out his Capulets-vs.-Montagues-style blueprint, Madison even evokes "the boys," who are not only back in town but also here to fight. Madison's hard-boiled demeanor sells the look: "The last thing I'd do is hurt you/but it's still on the list."
Melodramas like "The List" and "Search & Destroy" are the most immediately appealing numbers here, but there are several dark and peculiarly catchy songs sure to move the more sardonically inclined. The venomous, cuckolded "Last Man Standing" bounces to a punk-pop beat while it bites like a bear trap. "Who's going to make you squirm and scream? Who'll take advantage of your lack of self-esteem?" quips Madison.
Sure, not everyone will enjoy The Bleeding Hearts' sonically narrow brand of barroom-ready power pop. But for those who long for meaty pop-rock like that of Cheap Trick and Thin Lizzy, this is a trove of newly minted treasure. Summoning a wit and classic rock bravado that don't exist so much anymore, The Bleeding Hearts have at last delivered on their cocksure promise.
Label: Slaphappy Records
This article appeared in print with the headline "Overdue payoffs, new promises."