Dusting Off... The Murder City Devils' 'Empty Bottles, Broken Hearts'
If there's one thing we do well at hmv it's knowing our back catalogue. Our 'Dusting Off...' series aims to shine a light on forgotten, underrated or just plain classic films and music from the past.
This week we revisit a real gem, a total cult record, one that deserves to be in many more record collections than it currently is, it’s The Murder City Devils and their 1998 record Empty Bottles, Broken Hearts.
What’s the background?
Seattle garage punks The Murder City Devils are the real definition of a cult band. Formed in 1996, the band consisted of vocalist Spencer Moody, guitarist Dann Gallucci, bassist Derek Fudesco, drummer Coady Willis and guitarist Nate Manny. Inspired by goth punk bands like Misfits, Danzig and Dead Boys as well as the classic garage rock of The Stooges and MC5, the band worked quickly and released their debut album in 1997. After a year of solid touring, a period which included the addition of keyboard player Leslie Hardy, the band returned to the studio to record Empty Bottles, Broken Hearts, the album that would go on to be their defining record.
So what do they sound like?
The Murder City Devils sound like the best, sleazy back room bar band you’ve ever heard. Every guitar riff sounds like it’s been dipped in bourbon and designed specifically to turn a quiet Tuesday night into a full-on rager. The drums are muscular, the basslines prowl in the background and Moody’s vocals are full of grit and vigour, a low-tempo growl that builds into rich baritone.
The riffs are pure garage punk in their tuning and tone, think vintage Stooges, but there’s much more swagger in there. There’s the dark hearts of the Misfits and The Cramps in there too, along with the power of The Clash and classic punk. Empty Bottles, Broken Hearts is the perfect distillation of all this, it’s flawless from beginning to end, with huge choruses and supremely dirty riffs.
Who will enjoy it?
Oh so many people! It has the same blue-collar rock aesthetic as new successes like The Gaslight Anthem and Fidlar, the same rugged tunefulness as The Hold Steady and Against Me!, the same power and presence as Fucked Up and iceage, and the same big, bruising choruses as a band like Queens Of The Stone Age.
What became of them?
After the band split in 2001, all the members invested their time in various other projects, which included guitarist Gallucci becoming a member of Modest Mouse for a time and bassist Fudesco joining nowly sadly departed indie heroes Pretty Girls Make Graves. Eventually, after much clamour and demand, the band (minus Hardy and Manny) reunited in 2006 to play a set at the local Seattle music festival the Capitol Hill Block Party. After that show was a success, they decided to play further shows and have gigged one and off ever since. They are thought to be working on new material for the first time in over a decade.
Why should I revisit?
For many, many, many reasons, but none bigger than the fact that is record is packed full of amazing songs and deserves lots, lots more recognition.