Years ago in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, a professional dog walker (Sara Pette) bugged a graphic designer (Garth Blomberg) to start a band, with both of them trading duties on guitar and vocals. At least that’s the lead-up to the backstory of perennial Minneapolis favorites Lutheran Heat, who will soon be releasing their long-awaited debut LP, Louder from the Other Side, on Piñata Records. The garage pop band have been together since 2012, blistering stages throughout the upper-Midwest with their jubilant live show and releasing the odd 7”. While success on the stage and frenzied responses to single releases have kept them in the buzz file of those with keen ears, this new album is an overdue opportunity for the band to really prove themselves. This debut LP could certainly be the catalyst that earns them a space in the same treasured alumni of other heavily-lauded Minneapolis artists like Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, Doomtree, Atmosphere, and even Soul Asylum. At the very least, it's an album that deserves to be heard outside of its geographical roots.
Pette and Blomberg's vocal/guitar tag team is like the Road Warriors: full of dangerous spikes and nearly impossible to defeat. Whether it's their righteous harmonizing (particularly on "About a Summer," "Keep Comin' Back," "Witch's Hat"), their dueling power pop guitars, or the pulsing rhythm section (bartender/drummer Justin Nelles and art installer/bassist Matt Englestad are spectacular), the combination is worthy of winning several world championships in all of the territories. Or, if you don't get that pro wrestling analogy, should Lutheran Heat get the opportunity to tour more often outside of the upper-Midwest, they'll likely be crowned champions of your local independent radio station. And while the aforementioned songs are no doubt highlights, the highlights of the highlights bring to mind what is both familiar and wholly original.
For example, "Who Ya Cryin' For" toes the line between infectious pop, with guitar tones straight out of a sock hop, and ferocious garage rock. Blomberg's and Pette's playing here resembles a vicious duel, with their intense-yet-gentle strums crashing into each other from either side of your speakers or headphones, while the rhythm section aggressively pounds away at a heart-wrenching pace in the middle. On top of that, their vocals toe the line between a frustrated, angsty rage and a subtle, Midwestern sensibility. It's a tour de force, for lack of a better term, and that merely describes the first half of the track. A harmonica greets the listener at the exceedingly calm bridge, followed by a brief bass solo before the band dives back into that frenetic energy exhibited in the first minute-and-a-half. Now, the vast majority of the songs on this record are imminently worth looping on repeat, but "Who Ya Cryin' For" may be Lutheran Heat's piece de resistance.
And frankly, while every single track on Louder From The Other Side absolutely rips, that's not to say the album's free of diversity or levity. Quite the contrary, as proven midway through the record with "Stay Cool." The ballad dials the energy back a little bit, giving the listener a little time to breathe before kicking it back into high gear. "Stay Cool" also offers Pette's vocals a bright spotlight during the verses, and then provides the listener with a rousing Lutheran Heat-style chorus. It's those rousing choruses throughout the record that, in fact, will likely be one of the main reasons listeners will pine for a follow-up release.
Lutheran Heat's press-release states that "(Louder From The Other Side is the) sound synthesis of Van Morrison, Superchunck, the Shirelles, and X," which could be misconstrued as a humble tongue-in-cheek teaser. However, it is a appropriately apt description of this record. I would even throw in the likes of Big Star, Cheap Trick, Wire, and maybe even some early Kenny Rogers. Regardless, comparing Lutheran Heat's sound to other bands begins to become a completely pointless exercise. With Louder From The Other Side, Lutheran Heat takes listeners on a ride through bygone eras of power pop music, with a garage rock sheen that includes just a hint of twang. Again, it's all familiar, but wholly original. It'll suit you well if you're a fan of the past, but more importantly, it will thrill you that a contemporary band can create such infectious and moving songs like these in the modern era.
Louder from the Other Side will be available via digital download at most online retailers on August 19th, 2016. You can also pre-order limited edition vinyl pressings of the record from Luthern Heat's Bandcamp web site. If you’re lucky enough to live in or near Lutheran Heat’s hometown of Minneapolis, you can dodge shipping costs and purchase the magnificent vinyl package from human beings at Hymie’s Vintage Records or from Lutheran Heat themselves at their release party on August 19th at the Eagles Club 34 in Minneapolis.