Thundabetch.com may totally be the punkest URL out there, and it leads to an album cover of its leather-jacket-wearing namesake. In fact, the first track on the album is called “Leather Jacket.” The album title, the band name and the lead vocalist (Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes) — everything is Thunderbitch.
It’s unclear as to how many members of Alabama Shakes are on the Thunderbitch bill, seeing that the band’s website bio reads, “Thunderbitch. Rock ‘n’ Roll. The end.” The bio is followed by a series of unidentifiable stage names. Howard’s voice, however, is easily distinguishable on the album.
The band popped up overnight, fulfilling a hard rhythm-and-blues oath to fans that Alabama Shakes’ second album, Sound & Color, opted not to fulfill.
The single, “Always Alright,” on the “Silver Linings Playbook” soundtrack alluded to a follow up to Alabama Shakes’ debut album, Boys & Girls, that would predictably sound, well, exactly like the tracks on Thunderbitch.
To the surprise of many fans, Sound & Color makes use of Alabama Shakes’ access to better production resources, resulting in a departure from conventional rhythms (¾ timing), as well as the standard writing formats for blues, rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues. On the other hand, Thunderbitch can’t really be bothered with the bells and whistles of production, indie-rock rhythms and high-fidelity instrumental layering. The band’s got shit to do.
Even when Thunderbitch sounds like it’s going to take it easy, groovy songs such as “Closer” become subsumed by immediacy.
Though this is Howard’s third studio album, Thunderbitch sounds as though it is firmly rooted in her beginnings as a musician: Playing in a small-town garage band and covering classics among the likes of James Brown and Led Zeppelin. The concluding track on the album, “Heavenly Feeling,” almost resembles Link Wray’s “Rumble” with wailing vocals.
The formula is tried and true: boogie rhythms, slightly low fidelity guitar, hella drums and growling vocals. What is unique to Thunderbitch is Howard’s roaring vocals, which are saturated with soul and fight. They are less transcendent here than in other projects.
Here, Howard makes herself completely corporeal and direct, pushing herself to the forefront of crashing cymbals and blue-note reverb with aggression. It’s as though she is pushing against a strong current of male-dominated rock history as she demands presence. Howard allows herself to become unhinged on Thunderbitch. She spits in the face of her male forerunners and contemporaries alike, from Howlin’ Wolf to Gary Clark Jr. (respectfully though).
Thunderbitch is available for free streaming on thundabetch.com. It is also available to order on iTunes and as an LP from the Alabama Shakes merchandise site.
As for tour dates, the band’s website reads: “…maybe someday?” Though the future of Thunderbitch is unclear, it’s a classic rock ‘n’ roll storm in genre history.
Contact Jeila Saidi at [email protected].