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Tin Henry

Twisted (Dingo Gold Records)

Though the line between hard rock and heavy metal is as thin as Layne Staley's torso after a three-week heroin binge (that is, before he died of same), it is an important distinction. There is far too much histrionic crap produced in the guise of the latter, while the former is often derided as "stoner music," or the stuff your parents listened to on those black plastic Frisbees.

Granted, you could enjoy some mighty fine bong hits with Twisted as the soundtrack, but let's not discuss journalistic research methods. With this record, the quartet from that hard-rockin' town of Porter, Texas, has produced a solid, authentic hard rock record that's unashamed of its genre and approached with working-class bar-band sound and fury.

The men of Tin Henry (and their chosen noms du rock) are singer- guitarist Chris "Riddell" Cox, bassist-vocalist TJ "Flatbush" Taylor, guitarist Nathan "Nasty" Schmidt and drummer Gary "Angus Flash" Turner. And men they are -- from pictures, each seems to be closer to 40 than 30. But with that maturity perhaps comes a measured approach to their music. There's little exhibitionism to this band, and things are just fine that way.

"Inside Out" and "Journal" are write-offs to ex-lovers colored by Cox's and Schmidt's versatile and furious guitar work, and the latter does indeed have an Alice in Chains feel (Cox sounds like Staley at times, or maybe it's Taylor with the higher-pitched pipes -- the liners don't tell us all we need to know). "Overload," "There" and the record's epic piece "Twisted" build slowly off good riffs into something much greater by the songs' cacophonous ends.

In "Broken," the bona fide screamer of the bunch, Cox's tortured howling is not for the squeamish or easily frightened. It's also the sound sample that comes up immediately upon logging onto the group's Web site, so don't try it in the cozy confines of your office cubicle. Tin Henry shows other abilities with the funky, bass-poppin' "Revolution" (which makes political upheaval seem downright groovy) and the punk-pop of "Loser."

There are some drawbacks to Twisted. A few faster-paced numbers would have been nice, and the lyrics -- though admittedly not a strong suit for this genre -- can get repetitious. Still, the school of no-frills hard rock is graduating fewer and fewer students these days, as many bands pepper their training with electives in rap-rock, moan-metal, shredding solos and the camouflage art of masks and mascara. Tin Henry shows you can have an "old" sound that stands up today, and these Porterites (Porterians? Porter People?) are ready to rumble.

 
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