If every song Heavy Times played sounded like “Coffin Dirge,” the troupe wouldn’t be any better known, but it would be notable as one of the creepier acts out there. Taking the almost-instrumental track as the band’s pinnacle is completely anathema to growth. But over Heavy Times’ few releases, as it simultaneously draws influence from first wave punk acts and the contemporary garage scene, no single approach has suited the band in totality. During straight punk bangers, hearing Reader contributor Luca Cimarusti pound out frustration on the drum set, it’s clear he picked up sticks to play at a certain BPM. “Ultra Shapes,” from the band’s “Dead” recording, is all clenched teeth racing to the composition’s quick conclusion. There’s no flowery dénouement musically or lyrically resolving some pent-up problem; speeding through the motions is enough. Slower, more tuneful numbers like “Memory Dump” don’t fall flat while still sounding like a sketch for a fuller, better realized song. Dumping back-up vocals in there and halving a song’s tempo doesn’t result in a more artful rendering, just something different. From the same disc, another ghoul-themed track works pretty well. “Cemetery Hospital” is followed by a similar sounding “Knife Talk,” arriving as the aural approximation of getting kicked in the junk after already having been felled. The song could have worked just as well if it focused on knife hits, but punk bands can’t evoke everyone’s pastimes at once. Regardless, there’s no reason to expect Heavy Times to follow any specific strain of rock ‘n’ roll on impending releases. It is, however, just about necessary for band members to figure out what approaches work and which ones are better left echoing in practice spaces and during sound checks. (Dave Cantor)
January 14 at the Crown Tap Room, 2821 North Milwaukee, (773)252-9741. 9pm.