Funk is a tool all too rarely harnessed by rock bands these days. On the new record What Is Love by Toronto transplants The Heavy Jack 3 they blend hard rock with parts Steve Miller, and parts Red Hot Chili Peppers for an album that works best when it’s doing something new, rather than relying on its influences.
Guitar-driven opener “Hey There Mama” is a thumping song that pushes forward endlessly, putting an echoing void behind its simple instrumentation to add a heavy sense of wonder to its sound. Thanks to this sound and some wonderfully shifting progressions that mix traditional and more exotic voicings the track rarely feels derivative. Funk grooves start the frantic “Run Away” with distant vocals elevating the energy of the track. The rush of speed makes the song feel like it could lose control at any moment but the powerful musicianship of the band keeps it in check while it keeps you on edge.
The band’s continuous sense of flow pushes into the country-blues of “Blue Moon Sun” without feeling unnatural, and their strange chord choices make the track one that is uniquely theirs. With some playful writing the song pushes forward but does occasionally feel like it suffers from its derivative influences in parts. This issues persists on “Lucy Long Legs” in the more polka-touched verses, where the production choices end up saving it from feeling too bland. Alternatively the drop into the spirited solo finishes the song on a completely energized and unique note.
Going to “No Two Ways” the country blues stomp is given a mysterious and dark overtone, making it work for the most part. The band shows their brilliance however on the vicious and banshee-like bridge, where they complete change the feeling of the song to something intriguing and unique, making the more generic opening feel unnecessary. “People of the Night” finds them walking their generic to exciting shifts like trapeze kings. The shifts make the song more interesting in this case as neither part stays too long, leaving you wanting more of the sonic exploration and getting exactly the right amount of the more simple sections.
Strangely enough the move to “Revelation/Revolution” feels more like a solo and bridge than a different song. The killer jam styles and juicy licks make it one of the more get up and dance moments on the record. Closer “Anastasia” has the band in a chaotic race to the finish through non-stop drums that never ease-up and strings that shift through psychedelic and funk like its nothing. On this final tune The Heavy Jack 3 blend their two styles together seamlessly for a track that works better as a display of both sounds.