It could easily have been lost in translation – after all, these guys are from Belgium – but even allowing for the nuances of language, humour and heavy irony you are always going to be taking one helluva chance if you choose to call your record Sincerely Average for fear that is exactly what it might end up being. Closer investigation reveals that its title stems from the fact that this début album from Mauro Pawlowski’s Hitsville Drunks (he of the electric guitar and the Belgian noir-rockers dEUS) is the most commercial record he has made since his work with Mauro on their 2001 album Songs From A Bad Hat.
Here Pawlowski has joined forces with his former companions in Mauro, Herman Houbrechts and Jan Wyngers on bass guitar and drums respectively, and erstwhile Sukilove guitarist, Sjoerd Bruil, and together they have turned that dial to a 1970’s FM radio station, setting their musical compass for Boston, Bob Seger, Bachman-Turner Overdrive and the land of the free.
There are moments when Pawlowski’s decision to “normalise” his sound seems completely justified; ‘Never A Strange Man’ is a quite glorious slice of driving-with-the-radio-on mid-tempo balladry and the foot is similarly taken off the gas for ‘Don’t Tell Her’ where Pawlowski’s drawl edges alongside that of Chuck Prophet. It is much less successful when they pick up the painting-by-numbers rock star manual for songs such as ‘Clean Adult Fun’ and ‘Retro Artist’ with their clunky references to consensual sex, The Osmonds and Queen. It is at moments like these that Hitsville Drunks end up choking on the dust of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers but when taken in the round and with its handful of top tunes and firm grasp on melody, Sincerely Average does manage to haul itself up above the ordinary.
Sincerely Average was released on 7th April 2014 through Starman Records.