Imperfection is a funny thing to promote in an album title. In a music media environment ruled over by terms such as “pristine” and “flawless,” boldly stating a belief in the rough and rowdy comes off as an off-kilter move. But on the appropriately titled Champions of Imperfection, Durham, N.C. band The Dirty Little Heaters flaunts its flaws proudly. Riding a well-tuned rock ‘n’ roll engine that’s reverent to the legends that came before, singer Reese McHenry belts out deeply emotional angst with a wail that’s powerful enough to stand beside most any rock ‘n’ roll singer — past or present.
Beginning four years ago as a duo, The Heaters have lived through near break-ups and line-up switches that have left McHenry as the group’s only original member. But over that time the band have matured into a foursome with a fierce garage rock sound that commands respect in a town becoming known for gritty rock ‘n’ roll. “There’s no spin on it. There’s no gimmick to it. It’s just rock,” McHenry says. The now four-member band wields a sound that piles up the furious passion of a lifetime of rock. The hard-hitting interplay of guitar and keys suggests Deep Purple in its prime. The rattling roar of ferocious female vocals can’t help but allude to Joplin. But this isn’t tired and dated like a classic rock radio station. It’s appropriately dirty, the result of ragged personal fractures funneled through a timeless sound.
The Heaters like to say that their sound is hard to place, and in many ways they’re right. It’s indebted to the past, but struck through with visceral emotion that lashes it to the here and now. It’s triumphantly anthemic, but grounded in the mishaps and mistakes that plague our day-to-day lives. But above all, it rockets forth from a place that is both relatable and real.
“If you’re fucking up, you might as well be good at it,” says bassist Rob Walsh. And good at it they are. They make music that doesn’t apologize for the faults of the people behind it, and they deliver it with furious charisma. The Heaters are a mottled crew. They’re a group pieced together through break-ups and shake-ups but united by a belief that music is best when it fights through such hardships. “We know we’re imperfect, and we know we’re the champions of it,” McHenry says. If only being broken always sounded this good.
The Dirty Little Heaters is:
- Reese McHenry — vocals, guitar
- Rob Walsh — bass, vocals
- Doug White — keyboards
- Jessica Caesar — drums