UNDER-RADIO – Bad Heir Ways


Lion Music
Release Date: April 26, 2004

Guitars: B
Bass: B
Percussion: C
All The Other Stuff: B+
Vocals: B
Lyrics: A
Recording Quality: B+
Originality: A
Overall Rating: B+

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

Eric Zimmermann, guitarist and songwriter extraordinaire from New York, is back with vocalist Robbie Wyckoff and Matt and Gregg Bissonette on the bass guitar and drums, respectively, (along with a host of other specialty musicians) to deliver Under Radio’s 2nd album entitled Bad Heir Ways, the follow-up to the band’s self-titled debut. Bad Heir Ways is not your run-of-the-mill heavy rock album … nope, instead this release is filled with progressive, non-conforming metaphorical music that’s a little bit INXS, a little bit Red Hot Chili Peppers, and a little bit Led Zeppelin all rolled into one, with periodic carousing into the depths of a Mosh Pit.

The strengths of this album are clearly its musical diversity and the lyrics. Zimmermann holds true to no specific musical format, yet matches his contemplative, at times bizarre, lyrics extraordinarily well to a hodge-podge of different tuneful styles highlighted by use of non-conventional rock instruments such as the mandolin and violin (to name a few). The lyrics to most songs contained within Bad Heir Ways froth with symbolism and serious message, but virtually none of them make it easy on the listener by flat out just conveying a direct statement. Rather, Zimmermann dabbles here and dabbles there with tidbits of information as to where he’s going with each song and where he wants you to follow – eventually, though, he gives the listener just enough information to decipher his intended statements – a challenge at times, to be sure.

The stance taken towards sound production for Bad Heir Ways is as unique as the music and lyrics. At times, the guitar and percussion sound is clear, at the forefront, and powerful … other times its subdued, distant, and “purposefully” made to sound under-produced or “demo-ish” in quality. At a minimum, it’s interesting, at best it’s ingenious and adds even more to the variable musical styles present within the album. Wyckoff’s voice is also used in multiple fashions, shifting from straight singing, to controlled shouting, to quasi-psychedelic modes. There’s even some periodic surface noise inserted in-between a few tracks and during quiet passages – similar to what used to be heard as the norm when albums were only available on vinyl … never a boring moment as you’ve probably picked up on by now!

On to the specifics … Bad Heir Ways starts out with the title track, a Mosh Pit sounding song providing a view filled with satire about misguided values of persons who crave public attention. Next up is “Centerpiece,” which again has a raw, if not garage band sound, and has about as straightforward of a message as Zimmerman will allow in this album – the song simply calls out vanity, or being the “centerpiece of the world,” as being an unsavory trait.

Up to this point, one might think they’ve come across a truly aggressive, progressive rock album. Well, before letting the listener safely snuggle into that notion, Zimmerman completely shifts gears with the 3rd track, “Noel (The Christmas Truce).” The song starts out with a little violin work and generally stays mellow throughout as it meanders through metaphorical relational strife. Here, the rough production style gives way to a crystal clear recording, which is the right call for this topically introspective track.

4th is “Wedding Song,” which starts off in INXS fashion and shifts to the peculiar, both musically and lyrically … possibly a bad acid trip, who knows, but the song is interesting nonetheless.

Next up is the instrumental “You Won’t See The Blood Until Your Throat Has Been Cut” … scary concept, but an attention-getting instrumental that is more New Age than Rock ‘n’ Roll. This track blends its end with track #6, “Cornerstone,” which, after a likewise atypical Rock ‘n’ Roll beginning, establishes a solid rock groove and sticks with it. The storyline here deals with a prisoner who is released from jail with an all to common “chip” on his shoulder when finally reacquainted with society.

7th up is “Devil’s From a Midwest Town,” a song staying with the outlaw theme, except this time the protagonist is fantasizing with his buddy about wanting to live life so outrageously that eventual “folklore” will be created about them and their Midwest USA Town roots. Hey, more power to ‘em. Musically, this song is straightforward Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The most unique, and dare I say “best” song on the album, is track #8, “1916.” Musically, “1916” starts off acoustically, similar in fashion to Led Zeppelin’s “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” from Led Zeppelin III, and then opts to stay with a predominant acoustic route thereafter. Trying to tie into the song’s metaphor, it appears a child-killer used to hang out in the muddy waters off of the New Jersey shoreline in 1916, and that local residents took control of the situation by their own means … all of this is described in an upbeat, at times Deep-South USA Bible-belt, style lyrically. Quite good.

After this acoustical gem, true to form, comes the most aggressive song on the album, “Build a Monument,” which includes a chorus line similar to something you might expect from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The message behind this one is as tough to decipher as “Wedding Song” … there must be something there, but it goes beyond cosmetic comprehension. Musically, this song holds a garage band flavor, and contains/creates plenty of energy.

Lastly, the only song that fails to truly succeed in some way, is “Safety In Numbers.” It starts out as another Mosh Pit-type song dealing with terrorism, apparently from internal sources similar to the Columbine High School tragedy from a handful of years back. Under-Radio changes the musical style several times during this track, and the vocal patterns tend to be sporadic. The song’s not awful by any stretch, but it’s nowhere near as intriguing as its 9 predecessors.

Hard Core Metalheads will likely have no use for this album, but Progressive Rock and Metal fans, along with music lovers in search of unconventional styles, should enjoy many spins of Bad Heir Ways before it ever approaches anything close to being “stale.” Zimmermann and company clearly put a lot of thought into this album, and it definitely shows. This is an album that requires careful listening and initial dedication towards following along with the provided lyrics to ensure that you don’t miss any of the well-crafted, yet veiled, messages contained “between the lines.” Overall, this is an album written by a creative wizard that’s definitely worth checking out!


  • Dan Skiba

    Dan is a former partner at Metal Express Radio, and also served as a reviewer, photographer and interviewer on occasions. Based out of Indianapolis, USA he was first turned on to Hard Rock music in the mid-1970s when he purchased Deep Purple's Machine Head as his first album. He was immediately enthralled with the powerful guitar sound and pronounced drumbeat, and had to get more! His collection quickly expanded to include as many of Heavy Rock bands of the time that he could get his hands on, such as Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few.

    View all posts

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.