James Tate Meets Paul Westerberg: Tuff Sunshine’s Fire In The Hero Building



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“One sweet bite from the flesh, spit the fluff,” advises Tuff Sunshine’s Johnny Leitera on “Cough Yer Baby Up,” a track from his band’s new long player Fire In The Hero Building.

That’s sage counsel, but not any that’s needed here: this New York-based outfit’s new album is one sweet bite after the next with no fluff in sight.

And that’s no surprise–Tuff Sunshine are one of the most dynamic, energizing and altogether rousing bands out there.

Comprised of Leitera (guitar/vocals), Ani Cordero (drums/vocals) and Turner Stough (bass), Tuff Sunshine know when to jangle and when to roar and their debut album is one of the best of this waning year.

The fact is, Fire is so jam-packed with highlights, it’s hard to single out any tracks because they’re all so outstanding.

But let’s give it a shot.

The simmering ache of “Dynamite” brings to mind The Thrills; the fast-talking, snappy blast of “I Was A Shaker” could be a lost garage classic from 1966 and the scruffy pop of “Dreamin'” not only showcases Leitera’s lyrical dexterity, it’s catchy as hell.

And I haven’t even mentioned my two favorite songs yet:

“I Complied” is a wicked blast of jumpy pop and pure ’60 soul. Equal parts melodic purr and rueful punch, this is a number with such a solid right hook, you won’t even realize it’s hit you until you’re on the floor.

And I don’t even know how to tell you how much I love “I Won’t Go That Way.” Part broken lullaby, part post-punk shuffle, this is a ruminative number that finds Leitera observing: “There’s a thimble full of faith that keeps the boat afloat/There’s a rhythm to the rockin’ as you mine the moat/There’s a 1,000 mile spiral that we all can coast/There’s a smile going viral feeding off the host.”

That’s the kind of colossal poeticism that’s all over Fire In The Hero Building. The perfect mix of James Tate and Paul Westerberg, Leitera knows how to turn a verse. He’s got more lyrical invention that almost anyone in music today–this is a guy who knows how to whip words around.

This is also a guy who knows how to write a hook.

And this album is loaded with them, front to back.