Review Revue: Gary Heffern - Bald Tires in the Rain

Review Revue
Levi Fuller

If I were a better blogger, I would have gone into KEXP armed with the Bumbershoot lineup and found an album from one of the many fine bands playing at this weekend's festival (Negativland, say, or maybe Jonathan Richman) so as to bring you a remotely topical post for this week. Instead of that, I picked this album more or less at random, so I hope you will enjoy it on its own merits.

Gary Heffern was not a name I was familiar with - although it turns out I have typed it at least once before, as someone joked on the cover of Tom Waits's Frank's Wild Years that it "sounds like Gary Heffern." He was known, as we will learn below, for his previous work with the late '70s-early '80s punk band The Penetrators, out of San Diego. (Here's a recent interview with Heffern on the occasion of San Diego club The Casbah's 25th anniversary.) Not to be confused with the late '70s-early '80s punk band The Penetrators, out of Syracuse, of course.It shouldn't surprise me that there would be two punk bands called The Penetrators (now that I think of it I wouldn't be surprised if there were many more), but it took my 21st-century-addled brain a minute to process that fact that these bands were probably making noise, ruling their individual scenes for years, without any clue of each other's existence. We're so used to being able to find out anything in a fraction of a second - which is why it drives me crazy when new bands come out with names that are already in use - that it's hard to remember there was a time where two bands with the same name could have long, fruitful regional careers without ever even hearing about each other, never mind stepping on each other's toes. It's also entirely possible that they knew of each other and just thought "eh, they're super far away, who cares?" Not having to worry about who snaps up (which is currently unoccupied, but I can't believe I just blithely entered it into my web browser just now) or otherwise stakes out the name first on the Internet certainly changes a lot of things.

But all of this is only tangentially related to the one and only Gary Heffern, who is not playing and has maybe never played Bumbershoot, but whose music sounds pretty cool. It turns out Mr. Heffern's new book of poetry, Unholy Dreams, was just released in paperback form, so I guess this post was more topical than I thought. And now, on to the music:

"Somber, heavy-handed folk from a guy w/ties to Seattle. Something doesn't quite set w/me. It does, however, have its own style. I guess I'd put it in L, but maybe someone else should listen, cuz it just may deserve better. Surprisingly quirky + diverse sounding. Still kind of bugs me. Damn, I don't know what to say."

"Former lead singer/songwriter of The Penetrators. A pal of fellow San Diego bands, The Beat Farmers & Mojo Nixon. He lived/performed in Seattle for a while. Check out the Penetrators EP in our library for early punk/new wave from So Cal."

"I've heard this LP in process for about 7 months. It's no quick fix. It's folky, reminiscent of say John Prine, but it has its moments and works better if one lives with it. I have so I like most of it. 1:1, 1:2, 1:4 (which is really Neil Young inspired), 1:6, 2:2, 2:4 (which gets decent listener response. 2:6 is basically all the tracks playing at the same time. [OK, what? Now I really need to hear this record.]"

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