Pretty early in this project, I wrote about Dear and the Headlights’ second and final album, Drunk Like Bible Times. I noted then that lead singer Ian Metzger’s vocals were the star of the show, and it’s no different on the group’s 2007 debut, Small Steps, Heavy Hooves.
Without Metzger behind the mic, both albums are still capable indie rock records. But slightly above average indie rock albums are a dime a dozen, and I wish not to discount the importance of how his unique voice and words propel this group past ho-hum territory.
Over the course of 13 songs, Metzger and co. blend upbeat but understated drums with creative time signatures, clean riffs and crisp guitar tones, and a muted midwest influence thanks to ample use of mid-tempo acoustic guitar. The resulting effort is a refreshing take on a genre that has already been done every which way since the turn of the century, to the point that albums from the middle of the first decade are now being rehashed. Music trends are cannibalizing the past faster than it can be created, it would seem.
This might explain why so many albums in the last 15 years seem like they just came out, I don’t know, yesterday. Indie rock mutations are rapid, spawning subgenres faster than we can name them, some that will be born and die before reaching their maximum potential popularity (see: vaporwave).
I feel this could apply to a band like Dear and the Headlights. Drunk came out just a year after this album, and it wasn’t long before the band dissolved. So two albums in a span of two years, a few tours and then the book was closed. But a mere suggestion in the Indie Rock Almanac. Shame, but at least there’s around 30 songs they were able to give us in that time.
Small Steps opens with “Grace,” which tells you effectively all you need to know about the band in a tidy 4 minutes. Metzger’s vox rise and fall before you know they’ve even come and gone. On the next track, “Oh No!”, he stretches his chords to the zenith before returning to earth in a blink as if he’s been doing it circa post-womb.
Maybe the band’s best known song is “Sweet Talk,” a heartbreaking, if formulaic break-up song. The other major standouts of Small Steps, Heavy Hooves are “I’m Bored, You’re Amorous” and “I Just Do.” From what I read about Metzger, he used to be in the Christian band Justifide (hahaha). A lot of the lyrics are spiritual, but also question spirituality. I would draw the comparison to a writer like David Bazan, who publicly shed his faith. Metzger seems to be critical of the cross, with some of the lyrics on Small Steps pulling double duty as forlorn love lyrics and divine doubt. Good stuff.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: bands come and go quickly, so if you’re into it, make sure you see them live. What else are you gonna do with your life – watch Dexter, you turkey? Go to a show already.
From Small Steps, Heavy Hooves, this is “Sweet Talk” –
Standout tracks: “Oh No!”, “Happy in Love,” “It’s Gettin’ Easy” and “I Just Do”
Weakest track: “Mother Make Me Golden”
Directive: Pronounce “hooves” like “grooves.”
RIYL: Indie rock, alt rock. Colour Revolt, Kevin Devine, The Snake The Cross The Crown, John Gold (Florida).