Friday, April 24, 2009

Children Of Dunes

DALI’S LLAMA – “Full On Dunes” CD ’08 (Dali’s Llama, US) – I have a confession to make. I went to a Genesis concert at RFK Stadium in D.C. in 1989…and, I actually enjoyed parts of it. Ok, maybe that would be enough to hang my head but I need to stop beating around the bush. A couple years ago, DALI’S LLAMA sent me their “Sweet Sludge” CD and I forgot to review the damn thing. Sure as shootin’, I put it in a stack of discs with the full intention of giving it some spins, writing it up and wa-la…got lost in the shuffle. So, a short time back when I saw an ad for their new one “Full On Dunes” I had this sinking feeling of “Uh-oh.” So, I dropped ‘em a quick line & offered to write up their newie, my only trepidation being I’d end up not liking the sumbitch after all. As it turns out, that wasn’t a worry. It is very true that DALI’S LLAMA’S music would occupy a category that has become known as stoner rock. Unfortunately, it’s a genre that has a lot in common with this dude who lives at the corner of my block. He has a stomach that hangs so far over his belt that only 2 words come to mind: pregnant and, yes, “bloated.” Fortunately for DALI’S LLAMA they’ve done well to avoid a lot of the clichés that abound in this style of late. Rather than sounding like yet another band who’s mainlined liquid forms of “Sky Valley” & “In Search Of…,” this 3-piece takes a different tack and it works to their advantage. Zach Huskey (guitar, vox), Erica Huskey (bass) & Jeff Howe remind me a lot more of a refreshing combination of Sabbath around Side 2 of “Sabotage” & Raging Slab without the slide. Zach has an interesting axe sound throughout that is, yes, mid-period Tony in the rhythms and varying enough on the leads to keep the listener a good way. I especially like the tempo-shifting “King Platypus” & the laid-back, back-porch bluesy feel of “Cheap & Portable.” An interesting note is that Kyuss’ Scott Reeder produced this record as well as contributed bass to several tracks and yet the band still does not lapse into the trap of aping the man’s former band. Good stuff and I’m sure glad this one didn’t end up in the wrong pile. And…um, hey, Genesis did do something from “The Lamb…” that night. 8.0

DAMONE – “Roll The Dice” CD ’09 (Private, US) – DAMONE is, contrary to what their name may imply, not a band that sounds a lick like the Ramones. What they were was a hard-rockin’ crew sporting a tough-as-nails female lead singer and some decent hooks. While their last disc, “Out Here All Night” (Island Records) was no classic by any means, parts of it gave me hope that they might develop into something special. This time around, going the self-release route, DAMONE have also taken a startling giant step…backward. I have searched high and low throughout each song on this platter and have, unfortunately, uncovered about 2 minutes worth of material that I can even remember 15 minutes later. Honestly, this is about as bland as a McDonald’s bun with nothing between it and worse yet, for some reason the bass player sings lead vocals on a few songs. Why the hell, when your best asset is your personality-driven singer, would you have her step aside in favour of a half-assed hair-metal wannabe? An absolute crash into the rocks for what I thought might be a band with potential. 3.0

AGAINST NATURE – “Action At A Distance” CD ’09 (Bland Hand, US) – It would be a ridiculous understatement to say that AGAINST NATURE has done some pretty decent music over the last few years. For me, as a listener, it’s reached a personal zenith thusfar in 2007’s massive “The Anxiety Of Influence,” a mammoth cross-section of progressive rock, ‘70’s hard rock, doom and an intangible originality borne on the lavish talents of 3 unique and thoroughly cohesive musicians. That’s not to say that everything else touched by the hands of John Brenner, Bert Hall & Steve Branagan is chopped liver! In reality, one of the great pleasures I have in my musical life is when John sends me a new AN release, as I know it’s going to be some damn good listening. Still, it’s often not easy to pigeon-hole great artists and that’s why when I first pushed “play” on “Action At A Distance” I had to scratch my head for a minute. Where were the guitars, the layered riffs, the unique axe tonal experimentation Brenner has become known for, as Hall & Branagan churn out their living, breathing organic rhythms? Instead, I was hearing keyboards…and then, somewhere into my 2nd listen I realized that even though there was no 6-string action to be found, my ears were being quite pleasured indeed. See, what AGAINST NATURE does on “Action…” is to merely steer their starship into a different part of the musical universe…and with quite killer results. I’m thinking of things from the old Kraut rock days like Grobschnitt and even Amon Duul II, yet mixed with something even more dark & sinister like the key work of Italian master Paul Chain. Another thought crosses my mind, and it’s the Italian horror theme gurus, Goblin. This leads me to echoes of another current band who have done some nice work, Blizaro. All of these are wonderful name-checks but as always with AGAINST NATURE, there is plenty more going on here that identifies this disc as the work of none other than these 3 guys on these 3 cuts, “Action At A Distance,” “Graviton” & “Another Geometry.” Special stuff. 9.5

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