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. Continue reading
Mo’bikes! Zombies! Motherfucking motherfuckers! Stomps! Greasy hair! Slide guitars! Hell Yeah! Zombie Motors Wrecking Yard are riding horses made of steel and bringing the middle finger on their début, descriptively titled Supersonic Rock n’ Roll (Napalm). Continue reading
There’s decent pedigree within the ranks of New England quartet Kind, and the filthy, leaden groove attacking the knees from the beginning of debut album Rocket Science (Ripple) bears that out. Yes, it’s Stoner but, initially at least, there’s more life in the plunking of the bass, the reverb of the whole sound and Craig Riggs’ vocal roar which, far from the emphysemic gargle usually expected, has a depth and resonance befitting the growling riffs and sedentary pace.
An atmospheric production further lifts the sound throughout, giving the lazy Blues-Rock of ‘Rabbit Astronaut’ a mystique which enhances both the smokiness of the riff and the frenetic lead. The tempo of ‘Fast Number One’ is aptly ramped up to near-NWOBHM, levels yet Tom Corino’s mellow bass notes and the subtle riff allow the track to breathe through Matthew Couto’s precise stickwork. Riggs’ delivery is a little ‘pubby’, however, manfully handling some pretty clunky lyrics.
Not unexpectedly there is a stodginess to certain elements. It takes a gradual quickening and more of Darryl Shepard’s howling leadplay to inject life into the somewhat dull and uninspired meanderings of the overlong ‘Hordeolum’: the powering riff and Psychedelic vocal gracing the last quarter showing what might have been. The grinding, dirty Funk of ‘Pastrami Blaster’, meanwhile, is reined by a sluggish torpor which prevents that hot undercurrent from exploding; again only fired to partial grandeur by more electrifying work from Shepard. When things do fire, however, they are both potent and infectious; the nasty, driving power of the standout ‘Grogan’ again given room to flex by a strong yet dextrous riff.
The fuzzed, mellow tones of closer ‘The Angry Undertaker’ are slightly affected by Riggs’ balladic croon which, although wondrous by the genre’s standards, still shows limits on occasion. It’s here, however, where the creativity and fire in the belly is really displayed – the brutal, barrelling riffs and subsequent screams duelling with steadily building and intricate, cosmic leads – and where the uncertainty of Kind’s goodie bag is finally dispelled. Despite brief flashes of the usual failings there is much to be positive about here.
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Sometimes bands don’t feel the need to go off the beaten track into the unknown being happy instead to play exactly the styles that influenced them like a badge of honour. South West England’s own Grifter certainly wear their influences on their sleeves, taking cues from hard rockers ZZ Top and riff maestros like Black Sabbath and Orange Goblin, even finishing here with a cover of the former’s ‘Fairies Wear Boots’.
Such influences have been heard countless times of course and Return Of The Bearded Brethren (Ripple) shows no shred of originality whatsoever. From its tone through to subject matter there is no substance whatsoever that separates this from the countless identikit bands out there.
If you’re not going for individuality then you need write songs that knock it out of the ballpark. Again, this is where this album fails miserably. This brand of riff-based bluesy rock should fill you with adrenaline and give you a craving for whisky, but Grifter don’t even manage to get your foot to tap a little. The riffs are samey and bland whilst the vocals lack any form of swagger and command that such music requires.
Many a band has gone for the route of familiarity and made such sounds their own by being truly killer. ROTBB instead makes Grifter sound like a glorified pub band playing every week at your dingy local.