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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Album Review: Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight: "Going Home"

Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight . . . an unusual, but cool name for a band. With such a moniker you would think there would be some sort of obscure reference to a favored, but unknown band, or album. Perhaps a movie reference or something to do with a Role Playing Game. The truth is a bit more mundane, though. At a time before the band was ever formed, founding member Pete and a former supervisor from a pre-band job were killing time one day by trying to outdo one another with obscure band names for their shared pipe dream of one day actually forming a band. Pipe dreams sometime come true, it seems, as Pete was afforded the opportunity to start a band along with fellow founding members Chris and Paul in ’06 after playing together in the band Brainfreeze (another great band name). From here the story is familiar, one that seems to be a rite of passage for awesome stoner / doom / psych bands. An EP was released (“Make Like a Rock and Roll”), gigs were played, lots of songs written, and founding member Paul leaves the band in ‘07. From here Pete and Chris stray from the story slightly, releasing EP “Imaginarianism” (is there no end to their ability to come up with clever, tasteful names?) as a 2 piece band before Dicky joined them in ’08, solidifying the line-up, and leading to EP number three, “Lowering the Tone”, a collection of live gig favorites. Their first full length LP, “Movin’ On”, was released in ’09, garnering lots of attention and accolades as an exceptional collection of stoner/doom music.

The road to their latest release, “Going Home” wasn’t an easy one, starting out as a couple of different EPs, then a full length LP, the first recording of which was scrapped before the band got the sound they wanted for their April, 2012 release. Not easy, but never abandoned and the result is something I can confidently say is unique and wonderful. The roots of the low, slow vibe of stoner music is the starting point on “Going Home” with heavy, fuzzy guitars and vibrant, violent bass providing a style foundation for these wickedly clever songs. From those vibrant underpinnings several nuanced and intense layers of melody and intention are cabled together with the driving and agile roundhouse percussions of Chris’ drumming. The finishing touch is the crunchy, delicious shell of Pete’s rich, textured vocals, making these songs, this album, a rarity in the world of music where the melodies are original, the musicians gifted, focused, and driven, the writer of both melody and lyrics a fortunate soul who is compelled to share his vision with those in the world willing to listen, or who are looking for those too brief opportunities in life in which desire for artistic sense is delivered, allowing for enjoyment and brief, but thorough appeasement.

“Going Home” is that rare collection of music that upon first listen you recognize as interesting, intriguing, something you want to listen to with intent, but upon further listening you realize there is a lot going on, all of it more intriguing and interesting than you could have initially realized so you want to keep listening to it over and over, to learn the lyrics, to hear all the little pieces of drum flourish, of guitar riffage, of bass drive that are placed ‘just so’ throughout any given song, to experience that exquisite near rapture when great taste meets great effort backed by great talent, so that by the time you’ve listened a hundred times it’s like that old pair of jeans that you love, lived in, comfortable, brilliant in what it does because it fits just right. This album is genius in scope and delivery. It does more than simply play some heavy, low music, which, granted, is always a treat, but sometimes more is . . . if not needed, then at least greatly appreciated.

The title track kicks off the LP with a perfect glimpse into the artistic cunning of Pete, Chris, and Dicky. The sound is immediately low and heavy, measured and insistent, with a layered and nuanced intro tightly spun from contributions from all three instruments, providing a rich and immediately satisfying experience that is a prelude for what follows, both in the opening track, and throughout the entire album. “Going Down” is a slow, haunting tale of deliverance, structured in unique fashion with a hook near the end that grabs you right by the gut and squeezes just enough to allow you to savor the exquisite pain.

“Up the Stakes” is a bit more up-tempo with lots of hard guitar and a unique, but fun lyric delivery to match the structure of the song itself. A tale of vampires, either imagined or real, it is impossible to tell.

Next up is “Go Outside”, a singular tune that has a lot going on from beginning to end. It never settles on anything simple and repetitive in the music, throwing in all sorts of awesome riffs and forays, from the typical piercing solo to bass so low it shakes the roof. Equally intriguing are lyrics uniquely structured through the song. The chorus, unlike the instrumentation, is quite repetitive, something that is always in danger of derailing a good song, but here it works, and the more you get comfortable with the song the more you are able to realize it has a purpose, that it works for a reason. The refrains aren’t repetitive, but are quite varied and adept, so it becomes a terrific balance of lyrics, delivered by a gifted rock voice that glides on top of the teeming but nuanced instrumentation.

“Ain’t Gonna End Well” is an old fashioned romp of fun and plain ol’ ass kickin’ rock and roll. All parts are great, with an outstanding percussion set that delivers the song in perfect order.
Melancholy describes the tone for number five. “I want another drink, To help me feel the low.” Well said. You can absolutely feel the despair in those lyrics, underscored by the magnificent music on which it sits. But just when you have felt the low, the final delivery makes the most appropriate statement of all, “I’m in Hell, come and get me”, representing the turmoil felt by many for conditions perhaps beyond their control or with no end in sight. It’s melancholia, but it’s delicious in delivery.

One of my favorite songs on this album, one that’s very uptempo and just flat out fun is “Hillbilly Moonshine”, with a rock n’ roll yodel of sorts that’s flat out fun to sing when trippin’ to Trippy Wicked in your car. Pete’s vocals take on a whole new level of vocal dexterity on this tune, showing again his innate ability to deliver quality rock.

The guitars and bass on number seven are heavy, raw, and crunchy, played in a hard driving consistent and unrelentless tempo that feels like a boxer steadily moving forward a step at a time and delivering an unending flurry of bone crunching blows.

The penultimate tune is “Change Your Mind”, perhaps the best song on the album. It is chock full of fuzz and distortion, melody, change ups, high caliber percussion from Chris’ nimble and agile hands, plus bunker busting low notes from Dicky’s bass, not to mention another terrific vocal delivery from Pete that fits in perfectly with his monstrous guitar riffs.

The closer, “Home”, is a short, sweet, melancholy ditty that most bands might’ve placed at the front of the album as an intro, but works perfectly here as a ‘farewell, see you soon, had a lot of fun’ outro instead.

This album is one of a kind. It’s an instant classic even if it takes a dozen listens to get to a point of true appreciation. It’s on my list for album of the year and is most definitely in the running for #1, along with a very select few. The British continue to deliver quality stoner music to the world, music that doesn’t settle for using only the mold, but builds beyond it, reshaping in places that enhance and improve. Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight are the very best at doing just that.

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