From the start, reputation and its expectations were the albatross strung around the neck of the second incarnation of Durham's Dirty Little Heaters: Three years ago, Reese McHenry (nee Gibbs) and Melissa Thomas were a blustery ball of blooz-rock attitude, blasting out of Durham's gathering tide of idiosyncratic acts with a primal stomp and some hardened soul singing. That band's bitter breakup instigated a brief politics of division in the city's small but busy music community, especially after McHenry grafted the name to a new trio with ex-Spinn Rob Walsh and drummer Dave Perry, once of Jett Rink and Fake Swedish. Some people hoped to dismiss the band before it had even played. But if they're listening to Fatty Don't Feel Good—the too-short seven-inch debut from Heaters 2.0—those notions should be null.
A cage-rattling declaration of independence, Fatty comprises two contagious and concise jolts of analogue aggression, commanded by McHenry's howl-at-the-world voice. A-side "The Dry Wait" hits like Dead Moon straightening its aim in a direct, focused, mid-tempo, distorted pounce. McHenry—who's earned comparisons to Janis Joplin and Grace Slick but delivers with a sneer that's more confident than those comparisons suggest—offers images of flashing lights in dark rooms and big engine blocks roaring down quiet roads. "Who's your baby now?" she inquires, demanding with her tone that there'd best be just one answer. Despite its coy title, B-side "Untitled" exclaims confrontation from one groove to the next, McHenry offering advice about karma, weapons and adults stomping like little kids. It's a perfect fit, the sort of personal track that feels like a rallying call for anyone with conflict at hand. Walsh and Perry don't busy the backing. Instead, they work to drive their leader's points home, like an army bolstering a bark that you hope scene politics never silences.
The Dirty Little Heaters play The Pour House Thursday, Dec. 18, with Left Outlet and Savage Nights. Tickets for the 9 p.m. show are $5.