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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Nuclear Dog's Atomic Split: Five Horse Johnson - "The Taking of Black Heart" / Junkyard Birds - "Free Wheeling Free Will"

There has certainly of late been an abundance of just incredible, mouth watering, soul satisfying music to listen to for the site seers who visit Heavy Planet Dot Net. Today's review fission ranks near the top of the list of great and tasty albums that are available for the world to enjoy, and enjoy them you shall I have absolutely no doubt. The sounds today are disparate, which tends to add to the flavor and enjoyment of the experience of discovery. One band uses more than the standard guitars and trap set, branching out to more traditional, southern instrumentation, but never, ever foregoing the essence of what great and heavy music is about, all the while executing against clever and juicy lyrics. The other band exemplifies a brilliant blend of sounds that are both young to the rock world and as old as the mid twentieth century, sounds that call upon punk, indie, grunge, or any of the music that came about when rock was being strangled by those that would pretend to be artists, and merging it with the best of the original, pure sounds of rock.


FIVE HORSE JOHNSON - "The Taking of Black Heart"

Wow, Five Horse Johnson have been together since 1995, demonstrating stability in a universe that has very little. Despite that incredible feat it has been since 2006 since the release of  their last album "The Mystery Spot", which was hailed by most as Five Horse Johnson's best of a prolific collection of five great albums. Like most stoner band members where time away from any band is filled by playing for others, Five Horse Johnson is no exception with band members staying busy playing for Luder and Necros, among others. The stoner community appears to be tight knit, something that perhaps is a positive that might not be there if this music was in heavy rotation on the so called rock stations across the country. Whatever the case may be the time between "The Mystery Spot" and the impending release of "The Taking of Black Heart" has been used wisely by this group of super bluesmen because this album kicks major ass. Yes, it's as cliche as cliche can be. "This album kicks ass, Man!", but cliches are around for a reason and the reason for this particular one is so it can be used appropriately for Five Horse Johnson's January, 2013 release of "The Taking of Black Heart", their most ambitious and righteous release yet, and once again part of the awe inspiring rock label Small Stone Records. It is a powder keg collection of high energy, elitely executed blues rock standards that fit perfectly into the best sounds of the Seventies, but honestly, truly are more appropriately placed as a potential vehicle for the delivery of proper rock and roll back to the forefront of the industry. This music needs air time, it needs to be played as the intro to Monday Night Football, it needs to be on a dozen movie soundtracks, it is just as incredible and awesome a collection of rock songs as there can possibly be. There is plenty of blues infusion with standard harmonica rockin' hard right alongside incredible guitar that both burns hot and high on scorching, searing solos as well as provides beautiful, soul infused rhythm with down low fuzz and voracious bass totally devouring the atmosphere, all driven relentlessly forward by incredible jab, hook, uppercut drum combinations and topped off by vocals that could not fit any more perfectly with the skillfully written and adeptly delivered songs. 

Five Horse Johnson consist of:
Eric Oblander - vocals and harp
Brad Coffin - vocals and guitar
Steve Smith - Bass
Phil Dürr - Guitar

Additional Musicians for the album are:
Jean Paul Gaster - drums
J. Robbins - organ, percussion
Robin Zander - vocals on "You're My Girl (I Don't Want to Talk About It)"

Yes, Robin Zander of Cheap Trick fame makes an appearance on this album as the vocals for one song, the aforementioned "You're My Girl (I Don't Want to Talk About It)". The thing about this song is that it is not there to boost an album from a band that does not (yet) have the popularity of a Cheap Trick or any other aging but still well known Seventies icon. It is there, as far as this listener is concerned, because it fits with the rest of the incredible, high quality music on this album, and happens to be a riff filled blues rock romp that is served perfectly by Zander's experienced and still incredible vocals, just the same as Oblander's and Coffin's vocals on the other selections. 

Huge booming, and blackness piercing plasma beam riffs are prevalent throughout this album. Stoner rock is about nothing if not guitar riffs and no one brings a dumptruck load of them more expertly than the blues rock band from Toledo, Ohio, Five Horse Johnson. The opening track, "The Job" is simply awesome. Well written, well executed, overflowing with a barrage of sound that fills the listener with an overwhelming satisfaction and appreciation for the experience. Another song for the ages, one that very quickly made its way to my music player's list of all time stoner/fuzz favorites, is "Mexico", a perfect mixture of instrumentation and melodic structure that hits you squarely in the pleasure zones of your brain and heart, reaching peek interest somewhere far north of a hundred plays. Grab a song on "The Taking of Black Heart", any song, sit back and listen to its pieces as you thoroughly enjoy its whole, and you won't be disappointed no matter the selection. They're just too good. It's a thoroughly gifted and unique set of songs brought to you by a band that has used their seventeen years in the industry fine tuning their craft and their ability to a point where their 6th album is quite simply a treasure.




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JUNKYARD BIRDS - "Freewheeling Free Will"

Junkyard Birds have been together since 1996, bucking the odds in a universe where those odds are LONG, to say the least. This band brings with it that rare quality of experience and finely honed craft with the heart and energy of the young and hormonally charged. These guys hail from Toulouse, France by way of Frisco, California. The November 1st release of "Freewheeling Free Will" is their fourth album to date and represents a unique, varied, and exquisite foray into semi-madness, the type that brings a modicum of warmth and satisfaction because you ride so close to the edge of insanity, where the light fails and all energy bursts forth in no direction, but where the slick and feathered treads of your mind hold on long enough to return to pain and normalcy, bringing with it memory and satisfaction at having experienced the black heart music of this great album. The songs borrow judiciously from punk, grunge, indie, and any number of styles that deviate slightly and deliciously from normal song structure, all while somehow simultaneously adhering to typical song formation regardless. Melody is here in abundance, with standard chorus, refrain, solos, and bridges, making the songs memorable in ways the best songs do. The guitars are tuned low and reverberate with frenetic force throughout the album, sometimes challenging the low to see how deep it can truly go. The solos are timely and intelligent, combining with pure fury and joy and providing a primal arc of pure energy and sound. This collection of carefully calibrated chaos is memorable, and if not quite singular, at least unique enough to provide that pleasure of discovery, real or imagined. In the end, though, it's the delivery, the adept, athletic quality of the execution of instrumentation on top of artistic lyrical renderings that make this album noteworthy.

Band members for this fourth vinyl foray include:

Elie "Zakk" Crouzil Barthès - guitars, backing vocals
David "Blondie" Authiè - guitars, backing vocals
Dave "Kaptain Klaus" Persoglia - all drums
Mathieu "Le Grand Cornu" Bèzian - bass, vocals

"High Heels and Leather Boots" opens the album with a manic energy and primal rhythm that set the tone by offering a song that is adeptly constructed and expertly delivered while providing a large amount of uniqueness in song structure. Another up tempo track is "Death Valley Rider", which uses a heaping helping of fuzz and distortion on main refrain guitar. Next up is "You Don't Even Love Me", which mops the floor with black fuzzy acid, bringing a beautifully low stoner sound, deliberate in delivery, and lethal in acceptance. "Ego Killing" follows suit, digging trenches below the lowest of low notes, using the butt of the bass to make room at the bottom before unleashing snippets of crackling guitar solo energy.

These songs are wicked and certainly irreverent in lyrical design, but beautiful and exquisite in construction and delivery, bringing an incredibly high level of adroit quality and mind bending joy. This album provides both quality music that is enjoyable at any and all times, as well as an avenue seldom explored that meanders through darker passages of time and intent, keeping you on your toes and your senses on edge, flirting with the dark pleasures of music, but never leaving you stranded without a journey saving light to guide you back from the dismal abyss.





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