Album Reviews

The Fill Ins – Never Heard of ‘Em EP Review

Hobo Wolfman Records
3/27/20

 

Line Up:

Alex Stiff- Vocals and Guitar
Mikey Black- Lead Guitar
James “Captain” Nunn- Bass
D.J. Buchanan- Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Dangerous
2. Long Way To Go
3. Dramatic
4. Return To Sender
5. Personally
6. Thinkin’ About You
7. Drown Your Blues

 

 

Sometimes a band will retool their sound along the way. I’m not talking changing to the point where they change their sound to fit a current trend, becoming completely unrecognizable, but simply approaching their sound from a different angle. Most of the time it can be a failed experiment, but occasionally, a band will get it right. One of the more current examples of “getting it right” is a band I have followed for several years now, Charlotte, NC’s The Fill Ins.

I’ve watched this band grow from the angry punkish band of The Hipster Killers all the way to their current form with their latest EP Never Heard of ‘Em. The core of the band (Alex Stiff on vocals and guitar, James “Captain” Nunn on bass, and Mikey Black on lead guitar) has remained the same since I discovered them years ago. They’ve had a time keeping a skin basher, but now have D.J. Buchanan of The Walbournes & Wilma joining the band for this release. Stiff gave me fair warning when providing the promo that musically it was a bit different from their previous albums. Sometimes it is just bluster from an artist attempting to stoke excitement in a new album, but he was dead serious. From the opening track, you could tell immediately that the band was delving into a bit of a new approach. It’s not like it has been a sudden change though. With each album, they’ve honed their craft and sound from an “aggro” smartass rock and roll punk approach to what they’re representing now. With each successive release, they’ve lessened on the punk and anger and gone for more of a straight forward rock sound- meat and potatoes, balls to the wall rock. Never Heard of ‘Em is a much more mature album while maintaining the young spirit at the heart of the band. I was taken by the fact that each song was almost a different page from rock history, and certainly wore their influences on their sleeve (or seemingly so.) Throughout I was hearing old school Alice Cooper Band, early KISS, Thin Lizzy, and even some glam influence of bands like Slade and T Rex, yet I still knew that it was The Fill Ins. You also get a couple of guest appearances on the album with legendary Antiseen frontman Jeff Clayton on “Return To Sender” and singer/songwriter Kelsey Ryan on “Thinkin’ About You,” giving that old school rock and soul background vocals that get the booty shaking.

I have enjoyed their albums, but I think Never Heard of ‘Em is the best of the bunch. They now epitomize everything that got me into music in my early years, that great 70’s hard rock. Despite the new “direction”, I think longtime fans of The Fill Ins will still very much appreciate this new EP. Though it’s not as brash as their earlier stuff, it is a natural progression musically for them as each member adds years of experience to not only their lives but their playing abilities. I’m just glad they’re still out there doing it.

 

Written by: Chris Martin

Ratings: 9/10

 

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