Here again, I'm left with my jaw open and my dick in my hand. As the year winds down, we tend to pack and seal our definitive declarations a little too early, eager to tuck in every corner and finally call a spade a spade. What's good is good, what's not is forgotten, and what's ahead is given the nod over what's happening right in front of us. So when I've gotta slam the brakes and question why greatness went unnoticed, it throws everything else into question along with it.
Let's be fair; Spider Kitten's Cougar Club isn't being officially released until January, so I'm not talking about missing this album. Nuclear Dog got to me in time, smacking my face with a cold hand and doing little more than tucking the tape into my denim jacket. But take a look back at Spider Kitten's prolific, tireless catalog and you'll see what I'm getting at. These burners have spun, by my count, more than twenty releases over the course of the last decade. WHAT?! So I'll backtrack a tad, but this current release is gonna be hard to turn off.
The hot, eerie corridor-drone that opens Twin Obscenities hardly spoils what lays ahead on Cougar Club. Between the buzzes and crushes, the ridiculously heavy drops lumber and stagger alongside an unparalleled two-ply vocal haunt. Slow, thick, and surprisingly melodic, the dark doom crust begins to set and the balance of trudge and cool-panned guitar snags your ponytail and never loosens the grip on your senses. Atmospheres aren't firmly cemented, though. These guys have more than a few arrows in their quiver.
Sci-Fi guitar repetitions summon 2001: A Space Odyssey's Hal on Burdened, later utilizing a stoner-sludge buzz to lull and coax us. Remaining fuzzier than your mom's top lip, this cruiser shifts moods and enters a spacey jam. Guitar shavings splinter, Chris weaves a web of beats, and we're privy to a smoke-soaked extended lunch in a high school parking lot. What follows is a slow unroll of the doom carpet on a cover of Dark World by Saint Vitus. Sludge plods and pauses, vocals echo, and guitar honors with sacrilege in a burned night sky. Throwback, vintage, whatever. It's also well-realized and stamped with Spider Kitten's brand (and likely Wino's seal of approval).
Well, we find reprieve on Time Takes Its Toll, less an intermission and more a breath of clean, countryside air. Where the bulk of Cougar Club teems and sticks, this acoustic strum is stripped down and cheekily hopeful. I couldn't help but adopt an Orange Goblin-hires-Thom Yorke perspective; no pretense, increasingly unsettling with subsequent listens, and undeniably relaxing. If Chi's sitting under a tree and strumming a cracked wooden box called a guitar, I doubt he hasn't noticed the hillside peppered with rattles and cackles. I said "Goddamn!"
If you're still standing, Cougar Club's title-track closer is packed with head-nodding fuzz, picking up progressive steam with buoyance and catharsis. The vocals here are less presented and more extracted, an almost mid-life Isis (oh, you like that?) in a hazy, uncertain drift. Licks turn skyward, drums fall in line, but Al's bass remains dangerously low. A synth organ suspension screams Pink Floyd's Welcome to The Machine, fronting a hovering tapestry of sonic progressions. Crushing and crunching toward disc's end, the funeral sludge/doom underlayment blankets a chaotic cougar hunt. And the album's final moment is an exercise of staggering sustain.
I know there's another month to go before we close the books on 2012. Oh, and that Mayan calendar bullshit is right around the corner, so maybe we won't even get to usher in a sea of doomed resolutions. But after eleven months of sifting through some pretty incredible offerings from some pretty accomplished acts, it's difficult to find many that are this complete and this proficient. Cougar Club is thick with mood, heavy on variation, and thoroughly stung with riffs and rhythms that'll knock you flat. Moving forward, waving back, and setting the knob to "simmer" is just the beginning for Spider Kitten. And it's embarrassing to admit I'm starting at the end.