Friday, August 7, 2009

The Warlocks' "The Mirror Explodes": Music Review

Preceded by "Heavy Deavy Skull Lover," this continues a second, howling dark, wind for the band. The peaks of HDSL may not be scaled here, but it's a torrential, forlorn trek through the highs and lows of desolation. Terrain shared by the Velvet Underground once, The Black Angels now, and a place the Warlocks know well.

The darker neo-psychedelic sound's gained a revival, the shards of what used to be post-punk-alternative slicing into My Bloody Valentine's renewal of the overdriven drone assault. The songs here, shorter than some on HDSL that by their epic length pulverized you into submission, tend towards more mid-tempo. They reveal little light among the shadows, but since they lack the crushing opacity of heavier stoner rock, they prove more accessible for listeners who may seek a modern continuation-- as in the name of the band itself-- that nods to the Velvet Underground and the past forty years of those who've followed, mixing psychedelic dirges with a post-punk intensity and a pared-down efficiency in pace.

Like fellow Angelenos in Darker My Love, The Warlocks favor the middle ground between revival and experimentation of this genre. Vocals enter the mix to add texture, and the layered accretion of song structures take time to grow. This can be seen on "Red," which adds a Jesus & Mary Chain amble to the percussive base typical for the songs. "Midnight" turns ominous, with more MBV-type of sustain lurking effectively. "Slowly" combines measured grimness with steady depth of beats over buzzy patterns repeating. Repetition continues with "There is a Formula to Your Despair," which serves well not only as a motto for the band's intentions, but a quiet reminder of the Velvets' melancholy.

"Wait" moves more glacially; "Frequency" quickens into a welcome, confident swagger that should play great as a live track, with a more open-ended feel-- this song could have been extended best into similar tracks on HDSL. "Static" closes humbly, with grace and poise, and a sense of yearning that fits this recording well.

It's compact, mournful, and organized, avoiding the excess and posturing of so many stoner rock bands, while staying clear of imitation or derivation. The bands I've named to compare The Warlocks with do not mean the band copies their sound, but the band adds their own understanding of how elements that prove durable in past psychedelia and post-punk continue to inspire today. (P.S. I also reviewed HDSL on Amazon US, where this review was posted 6-28-2009.)

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