There are some excellent Stoner Blues albums around right now, with enough beef to wake you from that delightful trip around the Mojave on the back of some languid solo work. The name of Memphis quintet The Heavy Eyes speaks of a lull into one of those shamanic stupors, but fourth album Love Like Machines (Kozmik Artifactz) has a ‘bad boy’ image to keep those peepers open.
Opening track ‘Anabasis’ sets the scene with honeyed vocals and a delicately-strummed acoustic sandwiching an explosion into a heat haze of fuzz: Wally Anderson‘s bass rumble hugging the listener like an old friend; the riffs sawing them in half while a deep croon acts as the anesthetic. This eases nicely into ‘Made For The Age’, the tempo lifting to epitomise the Harley flying down an Arizona highway and fired by electrifying solos at the coda: while the low-strung, dirty riff of ‘Hand Of Bear’ is accompanied by a wicked rhythm from drummer Eric Garcia, the highlight of a catchy little bugger with a laconic yet irresistible sing-along and more sexy leads.
It’s that serious fuzz around the guitars of Tripp Shumake and Matt Qualls that keeps the tracks burning. ‘Late Night’ has a laid back nature but simmers with a latent sexuality, while ‘God Damn Wolf Man’ slinks in like a misbehaving Lothario before rising into some kind of profound love god. ‘Bright Light’ also possesses that Zodiac Mindwarp-like Biker Rock edge, but all three tracks have the common denominator of a sparing, Torch-style undercurrent which could easily go flat were it not so intense and often boosted by a bullish rhythm. ‘A Cat Named Haku’ also follows this template but is enlivened by a wailing riff and squirming solo.
The ‘bathing in grease and sweat’ philosophy maintains interest in the closing stages. ‘The Professional’ is governed by a simple structure, but that nasty hiss and outrageous lead guitar get the juices flowing: while another catchy rhythm and lead riff keep the feet tapping through the penultimate ‘Vera Cruz’, which has a feel of Queens of the Stone Age jamming with The Monkees. Closer ‘Idle Hands’ resonates with a New Mexican grind, its slow build graced by more howling guitars but hindered by a Pub Rock-like denouement: and there, I guess, lies the issue. There’s a lot to like about Love Like Machines, but with such an inflexible sound the indolent feel sometimes lacks energy. It’s fun, it’s filthy, it…needs an occasional kick up the arse.
6 / 10