Release Date: Feb 4, 2014
Record label: Shout! Factory
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, American Trad Rock, Roots Rock, Free Folk, Jam Bands
Big Head Todd & the Monsters spent much of the early years of the new millennium emphasizing their blues roots, going so far as to spearhead a centennial celebration of Robert Johnson in 2011, so the expansive nature of 2014's Black Beehive comes as something of a welcome surprise. BHTM haven't left the blues behind, of course -- there are funky slide guitar workouts like "Seven State Lines," along with a salute to the great Howlin' Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin -- but they've internalized the blues, letting it infuse songs that otherwise read as pop or lending a bit of grit to performances that otherwise favor comfort. This dexterity (demonstrated, as it should, through throwaway grooves and succinct solos), when combined with a production that boasts considerable color even during the record's quietest moments, gives Black Beehive a surprising resonance; unlike some BHTM records, this feels lived-in, which in itself is a reflection of how the band's sojourn into the blues has paid off dividends.
Todd Park Mohr and his band have always occupied this -ish territory in American pop. His songs tend to be more blues-ish than straight-up blues. The band’s performances have been more jam-ish than what you hear from a pure jam band. I realize that I’m kicking around a lot of non-words here, but this is the space in which Big Head Todd and the Monsters resides.
Big Head Todd & the Monsters Black Beehive (Shout! Factory) A window-rattling low end touches off opener "Hey Delila," Black Beehive thus busted wide open from its very first notes. The song's biblical declaration of love and lust, with its organ break and Todd Park Mohr's spirit animal vox – that ursine yelp – shakes down the proverbial temple. The surgical staple of a riff on the ensuing "Everything About You" then reiterates that Big Head Todd's 10th studio disc of originals pivots on sonic stings embedded in superior songwriting.
Big Head Todd & the Monsters have got the Blues again. After flirting with mainstream success in the ‘90s, thanks to crossover singles on Sister Sweetly, the band has drifted further and further toward down and dirty Blues. Their 2011 record 100 Years of Robert Johnson (under the moniker Big Head Blues Club) was their biggest step yet into that camp and with Black Beehive the band is perfectly content to build a permanent home in the genre.