Rocket from the Crypt


Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Rocket from the Crypt – “Heater Hands” from Scream Dracula Scream (1995 Interscope Records)

For a lot of people, I suppose, it was a huge deal when Rocket from the Crypt (or RFTC, or that band that would let you into their shows for free if you sported a tattoo of their logo) signed to major label Interscope Records. For my part, though, I can’t quite understand how John Reis was simultaneously making this music and Drive Like Jehu records, and it is essentially for this reason that I keep their music in my library — to try and break through to the other side of the mystery. Also, Rocket from the Crypt had a horn section, which kind of always put them in a Mighty Mighty Bosstones category in my mind.

The above paragraph is the kind of thing that could really raise the ire of some indie rock types. They might be right. The fault may be entirely my own. After all, I love Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes, The Sultans, and feel pretty warmly about the Night Marchers and the Obits. So why can’t I get into the band that many would call the umbrella that arches over the whole operation?

“Heater Hands” features John Reis at his whiniest and most nasally, and that horn section is definitely there in the background, whether we need them or not. Here is what I think: this made a lot of sense in the early and mid-nineties, but maybe didn’t age well. I know there are others who will disagree, and for them I have a whole record collection full of things I love from that time period that probably didn’t age well either (and about which I’m loathe to make such a statement).

I’m also unsure of what’s going on with these lyrics. They seem to be about a relationship, “don’t heat the hands that hold your love / before they hate you / don’t heat the hands that hold your stuff” — seems like practical advice. The refrain of “time is the backside of my hand,” however, is a bit puzzling. Is it a reference to domestic abuse? An acknowledgement of the weathering effects of the sands of time? Like so much about this band, it remains a mystery to me.

I like the title of this album a lot, and I love Reis’ undying devotion to American music, as well as his clear affection for loud volumes. I remain ambivalent about Rocket from the Crypt, however, which is a long way from where I started, and I imagine this is a puzzle I’ll be trying to solve for years to come.

You guys know where there’s video of this song? I couldn’t find it.