Buckle up, readers. We’re in for one hell of a ride.
Today we’re talking about Greenhaven’s 2005 album, The Last Powerful Second.
Greenhaven is a tough band to describe in only a few words. Imagine the Phoenix, AZ heat compressed and shot into a can of cheap beer. Now shake that can and douse it over the mosh pit at a Clutch concert powered by cocaine instead of electricity.
And my god, it’s catchy.
It’s Stoner Rock riffing delivered at Punk Rock speeds, breeding an entirely new brand of Alternative Rock.
Before we get to the album of the hour, let’s say a few words about our artists. Greenhaven is:
Uncle Dave – bass, vocals
Bill Schumann – drums
Jay Hofer – guitars, vocals
Matt Strangwayes – vocals
That much we can say with relative certainty, thanks to the Greenhaven Facebook page. But digging to the truth of their backstory is a tougher challenge; there simply isn’t much to go off.
Here’s a snippet from the band’s bio on ReverbNation:
Before Greenhaven, Uncle Dave was working day jobs in the fishing industry and living in abandoned buildings in Tucson. Those were the good ‘ol days. The next few years were full of trouble. When he was captured in August of 2003 a paper proclaimed that he had been arrested 16 times, twice as many as Mark Farner in his entire lifetime. He was just getting started. In the years to come he was charged for infractions such as “fracturing a man’s jaw,” “knocking down a woman’s door,” “being stabbed in an Amsterdam Avenue bar brawl,” “drunken bicycling,” and “breaking a college student’s jaw with his foot.” His escapades were reported widely on the covers of cheap tabloids and in the slurred voices of downtown gin joints.
Between the lack of publicity and the band’s insistence on creating a mythology around Uncle Dave, it’s challenging to capture a clear picture of who the band really is.
The Last Powerful Second
We take our album reviews seriously. When we wrote our first review, it was to honor two of the best albums of the last 10 years. Diving into The Last Powerful Second, we admit, is an interesting turn of events. Greenhaven doesn’t write music like Baroness or We Hunt Buffalo. Their sound isn’t as serious and their songs are woefully formulaic.
But Greenhaven brings something special to the table: They are a beer-drenched, Kentucky-fried, humor-infused Stoner Rock/Alternative Rock blend that is delightful as it is entrancing.
The Last Powerful Second registers at 10 tracks and 28 minutes and 19 seconds, packing a powerful punch in less than half an hour.
Although short, each song brings something a little different to enjoy.
Let’s dig in.
Track 1: Waterloo
Opening track “Waterloo” gives you a good sample of Greenhaven’s in-your-face brand of Stoner/Alternative Rock. The pace gallops forward as if it’s at risk of falling right off the freight train the album rests its massive fury upon.
The lyrics to “Waterloo” also serve as a preview to how interesting, wild, and diverse the language will become. Just look at how the song opens:
Five days on the mountain, that changed me for the good
Been four days since I took a drink, Lord, you helped me if you could
Three days since you showed me that special trick you do
Two more days, I hit the road, I’ve had enough of you
I say, “One more?”
You say, “Hell yeah!”
1, 2, 3, 4, I ain’t done yet
As we’ll see, this is only scratching at the surface of what Greenhaven can produce.
Track 2: Earthquake
As if the riffs weren’t massive enough in “Waterloo,” Greenhaven slows down ever so slightly in “Earthquake,” just so you can feel the throbbing riff a little better. But then, after the 13-second opening, the band bursts ahead at their most comfortable pace: fast.
This is how “Earthquake” progresses: first slow, then fast, then slow, then fast again… The time signatures keep the song engaging and fun to listen to—a hallmark we’ll find throughout The Last Powerful Second.
Track 3: Limousine
“Limousine” opens with that classic Greenhaven humor:
Mary-Anne was prettier, but Maggie had the beer.
Like “Earthquake,” “Limousine” takes us through multiple time signatures, pulling us through a stream of Metal and Punk Rock, all of which slows down mid-solo around the 1:30 mark.
Track 4: Flunky
If you’re looking for massive riffs, “Flunky” is the place to go. “Flunky” is genuine rampage music, thanks to its quick, chunky power chords.
While that alone makes the listen exciting, “Flunky” also delivers an injection of Greenhaven’s drug-fueled humor:
Scapegoat and cutthroat
I eat more weed than a billy goat
Propane and cocaine
I’ve rode more rails than a freight train
Track 5: Kitty Jo
If The Last Powerful Second contained an anthem, it would be “Kitty Jo.” Between the tight riff and a chorus that’s easy to shout while toasting your beer under the night sky, “Kitty Jo” is as much a party song as it is a tune about a desirable lady named Kitty Jo.
Track 6: Seven Miles to Saturn
Greenhaven thrives on debauchery, and “Seven Miles to Saturn” fits right into their comfort zone.
Track 7: Goodside
“Goodside” opens with a party riff reminiscent of bands like KISS, but that’s about where the excitement ends. At a total runtime of 3:59, “Goodside” is the longest track on the Last Powerful Second, but it’s indicative of where Greenhaven’s most comfortable: brevity. “Goodside” quickly becomes boring, especially when placed between the raucous speed of “Seven Miles to Saturn” and the voyerism of “Space Leapers.”
“Goodside” is a reminder of where Greenhaven thrives: Stoner Rock songs delivered at Punk Rock speeds.
Track 8: Space Leapers
“Space Leaders” is a powerful instrumental interlude that sounds like it fell out of the Monster Magnet catalog. Although “Seven Miles to Saturn” is the track most obviously linked to space travel, “Space Leapers” is the song that most feels like it’s actually pulling you through the Milky Way.
To be fair, you could argue night and day over whether or not “Space Leapers” is really necessary on an album that blasts away at less than a full half hour. Interludes are meant as palate cleansers and a mental reset, especially in albums like TOOL’s Fear Inoculum.
But here we are. We can critique Greenhaven for not expanding what had the potential to become another banger and we critique the band for adding such a thin song this close to the album end. It wouldn’t be wrong.
But maybe the band decided to offer “Space Leapers” as a respite after the lackluster delivery in “Goodside.”
Track 9: Ape
For all of its intricate guitar work, what’s most captivating about “Ape” is its self-awareness surrounding human nature. In an album that just told us “Mary-Anne was prettier, but Maggie had the beer,” “Ape” simultaneously decries and celebrates man’s ascension to the top of the food chain. Of course, Greenhaven can’t stay serious for too long. Although the song ends in a series of primal screams, check out the last few lines of actual language:
Man is God, Ape is Beast
Together we dine at simian feast
Ape is gone, Man is strong
Still kickin’ ass like Donkey Kong
Track 10: River God
Listen closely to “River God.” A subtle flair in riff gives “River God” an exotic feel, perfect for worshipping the gods on the Mississippi—or the Amazon or Nile, for that matter.
Ending with River God is an excellent choice on Greenhaven’s part, as it ends the album on as powerful note as “Waterloo,” making the album well-deserving of a title like The Last Powerful Second.
Pros: Greenhaven are a celebration of the party lifestyle, debauchery, and Rock priorities. Intricate guitar work and powerful vocals create a powerful listening experience.
Cons: The formulaic songwriting eventually becomes repetitive, but The Last Powerful Second is exciting enough for an excellent first listen.