First coming together in 2004 under the name of Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, this quartet have spent many days and nights sharpening their skill-sets, both as a collective and individually through endless gigs and three solid releases that have kept their name on the lips of the ever-widening fanbase. They have been described previously as quote, “a driving mindmeld between psychedelia, classic metal, heavy rock, and individualized realms beyond” enquote. With this fourth release, they have shortened the moniker to an abbreviation of the previous name to the shorter and more accessible JIRM and results contained in this 7-track opus will leave jaws dropped and eyes wide.
Already known as a progressive force, dripping in the sweat of endless striving for those defining musical moments that set them apart from their peers, these four have taken that and have indeed redefined who they are and what they do as a unit and the result is this juggernaut that clocks in at just over an hour.
Recorded in their hometown of Stockholm, the record was mixed in Gothenburg, Sweden and then mastered in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the end result shows that JIRM remains stronger than ever and the proof is ‘in the pudding’ as it were with the sheer MIGHT that exudes from each song here. From the opening rolling chords of “Candle Eyes” that sets the pace before that high-scream hits hard at the 1-minute mark and has the hallmark tones of psychedelia melded into that hard rock/metal hybrid and is unrelenting in the delivery that grabs you by the arm and pulls you along to end solos that fade slowly into the opening organ sounds of “Dig”.
This track is fraught with that ‘space-rock’ feel, from the back and forth vocal fade in that sounds almost operatic in undertone. Being the longest of the seven songs contained, it is three minutes until we are given a bass line that gets your pulse matching the cadence and when the double guitar assault comes in, it is just as thick and churning as you could ask for. By the time the crescendos are at full gallop, there is no turning back and why would you want to go back anyway, right?? At the half-mark we are granted that clear voice again, soaring as high as you can possibly see and it seems almost too short as you take in the tale delivered with enough time-shifts and slight pauses to make the atmosphere around you shimmer as you surrender to every measure to the almost ghostly-solo that ends this time.
“Isle Of Solitude” fades in, even slower than it’s predecessor and at 11:26, it is the next-longest of the offerings and the name of the track tells the tale you will experience with this softer/slower parade that cascades by, showing the versatility of these guys in a manner most may not have expected, where “Nature Of The Damned” lets JIRM get even more complex in the weaving of bass, guitars, perfect cadences and that vocal that takes absolute control of you as it continues to reach even higher highs. “Giza” is another slower, softer track that does not fail to satisfy in its plush arrangement and is the perfect bookmark to take you into closer “Tombs Arise” that is as frantic and powerful as the opener and seems the absolute summation of the creature that stands before us in the guise of JIRM.
The one that really stood out for me here would have to be “The Cultist”. In MY opinion, this is the ultimate melding of the prowess of each musician here, comes at you out of the gate with a steady running tempo and power chord progressions to match, all served with that voice that truly IS the icing on the cake of this slab of wax that is guaranteed to satiate even the most fervent fan of progressive compositions.
I would have to put it out there that this WILL be one of the ‘must-have’ records released in 2018 and I encourage you to buy it and share it with all in your realm, support them live as they truly seem to never stop gigging, and spread the word about JIRM so nobody misses this juggernaut… and most importantly, keep it LOUD!!
Turtle Skull – Digital Download // Band Shirt Bundles
Self Released – releases May 17, 2018
Terry “The Ancient One” Cuyler
Surfing the Psychedelic Sound Waves
Tracklist: No News is Bad News – 6:56 Take it or Leave It – 8:27 Eden – 6:08 Empty Ships – 8:23
Ah…Spring has sprung. The trees are leafing and flowers blooming and I feel the urge to leave my cave behind and go bike riding. But to do that I need some good riding music and in my collection I have quite a bit to choose that covers a wide spectrum of styles.
Most recently I added a “Self Titled” EP by the self described Flower Doom rockers from Sydney Australia called Turtle Skull who will be debuting the download of their EP on Bandcamp this May 17th 2018. Available for Pre – order now for $1 US I’d feel like I was ripping them off if I didn’t pay $5. Offering up what sounds to me like surf music infused with psychedelic feel good fuzz I find it easy to not care about trivial things when I listen to it. While I am not going to claim Turtle Skull is the next Earthless I feel pretty safe saying they have a lot of potential and I’d buy a full length album if they produce one.
Opening the EP is No News is Bad News a trippy fuzzadelic song about tuning out the talking heads on TV that encourage us to buy into their vision of a plastic paradise that we all to often buy into. What I like most about this are the droning vocals and guitars that feel like they are coming from the deep.
With a steady mid tempo rhythm that keeps things simple Take It Or Leave It has the rolling feel of a classic surf song. Overall, what I enjoyed was its catchy feel.
Nothing like having drums and guitars create a rhythm which Turtle Skull does masterfully.
Moving into a more visceral sound is Eden the 3rd track is my favorite on the EP. What I like most is that naughty guitar played by vocalist guitarist Dean.
Closing “Turtle Skull” is the psychedelic blues song Empty Ships that feels like a midnight swim under the stars. Deans smooth vocals and guitar along with Dan on synth set the mood for the song and proved to me they can do more than just sound more fuzzed. This debut album is an excellent start for this promising band. I look forward to what they have in store for us in the near future. Highly Recommend!!
Rocket Freak (3:30)
I’m God (6:16)
Want Some (5:49)
All Day Midnight (3:59)
When The Hammer Comes Down (5:48)
Despite this passage that would suggest the contrary, Monster Magnet is a band that needs no introduction. Dave Wyndorf’s masterful Stoner Metal Legend boasts a gargantuan overarching influence that stretches from Queens of the Stone Age to the undisputed emperor of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee himself. Well within the midst of a long and fruitful career, a more mature Monster Magnet have brought themselves into the modern era with a personal spin with the brand new Mindfucker.
While it is true that Monster Magnet is more mature, it cannot be said that their rage has been quelled. Dave Wyndorf and his cohorts are still ripe with fury, especially on the incredible “I’m God”, in which Vocalist Wyndorf takes on the role of a particularly vengeful Old Testament-era God, who has had more than enough of modern society, ready to remind Earth’s unknowing citizens of his power. This tune is very indicative of the direction Monster Magnet has taken with Mindfucker: Furious, Raw, and powerful, with a healthy dose of the strangeness that has defined Monster Magnet throughout their career. Therefore, if you’ve listened to Monster Magnet before, you likely know what you’re in for with this one.
With Mindfucker, Monster Magnet have progressed their sound while still staying familiar enough to be recognizable as a Monster Magnet album. It is heavy, melodic, and fun, with enough lyrical fire to make you believe that there’s a reason this album exists. Mindfucker definitely earns its in the lofty echelons of Monster Magnet’s oeuvre, making it a must purchase for Stoner Metal fans.
Lineup: Russel Clark (Vocals)
Christos Athanasias (Guitar)
Nicolas Dumont (Bass)
Andy Alkemade (Drums)
Tracklist: Promised Land 04:53
Black Widow 03:53
Raging Bull 03:21
Killing Time 04:31
Love Enemy 03:56
You & Me 03:58
Little Birdy Told Me 04:10
The Fire 06:24
The Ugly Kings are a Rock band from Melbourne, Australia. I’ll let the band explain themselves further; “[we] offer a stripped down but powerful injection of energy and emotion to the modern rock scene [by] formulating what can only be described as ‘Power Blues’ [with] memorable beats, thunderous bass lines and an electrifying barrage of bluesy ‘grit’ riffs tied with raw and emotive vocals.”
Darkness Is My Home is the first full length album by the band. (The previous releases being a E.P. of sorts, Of Sins, and a single, Promised Land, which is the same as the version on this release but has a b-side that is not on this album.)
Overall the band’s sound is a mix of early Classic Rock and are heavily inspired by Blues Rock. The perfect descriptor tag for the album is Doom Blues with Rock flair. In a way this album sounds like you can chop up and mix it up and make different songs each time. At the same time I like that it sounds that it was recorded in one take in a converted garage to studio.
Promised Land: I found a quote from the band on the song; “‘Promised Land is about the false promises that are preached to us by the charlatans of our society (politicians, big business, etc…). It’s about the pipe dream they sell us to keep us in servitude to the 1%, to keep us slaves to the dollar and material things. There is nothing at the top of the ladder, except another ladder. The Promised Land isn’t the destination we get sold, it’s inside of us.”
The band also have a beautifully shot video for the track too.
Black Widow: This is the 2nd hardest rocking track on the album. There is a bunch of back and forth in the tempo. It is also what I imagine the cover art comes from. (That and for Love Enemy)
Raging Bull: This is the hardest rocking track on the album. The riffs on this song sounds so familiar and I can’t think of what it is from.
Killing Time: Watch the music video for this track HERE
Love Enemy: This is a slower and more blues filled track. They sit on the riff while Russell is delivering the vocals. This track also feels like it could be a 2nd part to Black Widow.
You & Me: This is where the title of the album comes from. This is another slow track.
Lazarus: This track is a cover of David Bowie’sLazarus from his swan song album “Blackstar” and the band manage to make it their own while keeping the original close at hand.
Little Birdy Told Me: Kind of feels like Love Enemy.
By M. Andrew “Dinger” Beresky, Junior, Chief Rebel Angel
“You Can Have Your Sleep, I’ll Just Stay Up and Keep Watch, Because It Seems Like Somebody’s Gotta Do It.
i.e. How I Learned to Stop Caring About My Integrity and Love John Boehner, William Weld and Jack White.”
So….I couple of months ago, I told Taste Nation head honcho Matthew Thomas that I would no longer write music reviews. It’s true. I really don’t see the point. Countless people do that already, and they all do it a hell of a lot better than me. Or at least they do it less begrudgingly than me. I did tell Matthew that I wanted to be able to continue writing. I think that I’m a pretty darned good writer, and I at least enjoy it. I basically told him I’d keep writing for Taste Nation if I were allowed to write about whatever the fuck I want. For some odd reason, he agreed to this, and I hope that he doesn’t live to regret that decision. For the record, I did also agree to finish up the reviews that I’ve already agreed to write, and that’s not exactly going so well. I’m about two paragraphs into my review of the now not-so-new Quicksand album, and I don’t have a clue what to write about. I’ve been working on that review for nearly 9 months. I think that’s the thing, Mr. Thomas has seen how my creative process works, and sometimes I fall into funks. I tend to pick myself up at some point, and once again fart out my thoughts into the wonderful collective stench we call the World Wide Web. So I will finish those reviews, and I apologize to those who may be waiting. I will finish them, just not today.
Today, I’m going to set aside a bit of special time to publicly embarrass myself by going on one of my extended and probably unpopular diatribes. My first topic is marijuana. I’d like to go on the record saying that I despise almost everything about popular pot culture. I cannot stand 4:20 or 4/20, I find them incredibly annoying. When I go around randomly shouting “it’s a 4/20 miracle!!” at every little thing for the few days that surround this “holiday”, I’m doing it not only ironically and not only sarcastically. I’m doing it also to try to convey a bit of how annoyed I feel by being just a little bit annoying myself. I wish that I could be a lot more annoying about it, and I also don’t want to totally rain on some folks’ parade. Just a light drizzle, enough to snuff out a joint here and there.
The reason I don’t really care for 4/20 or popular pot culture is that it’s mostly about marketing and commercialism. It’s generally the worst aspects of popular pot culture that get cast in the biggest spotlight. I’m going to drop some really, really tough truth on you all. Some of you probably already realize this. It’s 2018, and marijuana and its surrounding culture are no longer subversive or liberating in the way that they once were. Pot culture is simply no longer counter-culture. It’s unfortunate that anything with the potential to liberate can also be turned around and utilized to oppress, and that’s what we’re starting to see the first inklings of when it comes to marijuana. I am someone who has lived through the draconian times of Massachusetts’ past drug laws. I’ve seen my friends bagged, tagged, and dragged around by the handcuffs, then held overnight against their will for possessing half a gram of reefer. They were then routinely paraded before a judge and given sentences of 6 months probation, despite the fact that the only crime they were guilty of was assaulting a half-eaten burrito and falling asleep in the sunshine with bong in hand. I’m sure you’ve all heard these stories, so I won’t bore you by waxing poetic on the subject any longer. I’m also sure that you’re aware that Mass drug laws were always pretty lax compared to other states in the U.S.
Here’s how you know that pot is not subversive in 2018 – currently some of pot’s biggest proponents are former Republican Speaker Of The House John Boehner and former Republican Governor of Massachusetts William Weld. These guys now lobby for the marijuana industry. So, just to let that sink in for a second. The very same guy who oversaw the implementation of those same laws that locked up so many of my friends, he now wants to turn around and sell us all reefer. Why the change of heart? Well, it’s very $imple. Very, very $imple. Follow the fucking money.
Now let’s get something abundantly clear; I’m not against marijuana or its usage. I strongly believe that people should be free to use it both medicinally and recreational, and that we should invest money into The Actual Sciences that further explore both the positive and negative aspects of pot usage. Yes, I said it, there are many, many downsides to marijuana usage, one of which is that it’s addictive. I know that’s going to be a contentious statement, and I’m not trying to harsh your mellow. It’s very, very true, and I also will never back down from this statement. Sure, it’s not addictive in the same way that say, Percocet, Xanax, Seroquel and Paxil are addictive. Sure, marijuana helps people in many ways, one of which is its ability to stand in as a less harmful substitute for the very, very addictive pharmaceuticals I’ve listed above. That doesn’t mean that it’s never addictive and never harmful. It has ruined some peoples’ lives. All I’m asking is that you bear that in mind. I know that it also makes some peoples’ lives bareable. I realize that it can be used as a harm reduction measure, and that does not mean that marijuana is not harmful in and of itself.
Marijuana never ruined MY life, and that could be because I live in a little liberal bubble, I’m white, I’m resourceful, I’m smart enough to keep my nose clean of TOO much trouble, and I have supportive family and friends to fall back on when my life does inevitably go to shit because I’ve made some incredibly bad choices. Not everyone is so lucky, and I’m the first to acknowledge that.
Well, now we’re seeing a much luckier class of marijuana “users”, and that’s those who are lucky enough to make fucking bank on it. Yes, yes, marijuana has always been a wildly profitable cash crop, and smart dealers have always made tons of money on it. Criminally. Not guys like Weld and Boehner. And not guys like Jack White either.
In the beginning, there was no “stoner rock.” Bands like Kyuss, Monster Magnet, Sleep, Fu Manchu, Clutch, they just did their thing, and there was no specific genre name. I’d listened to these bands since 1992, and I kind of lumped them in as an offshoot of the whole “grunge” thing, an underground “alternative” to the mainstream “alternative.” They did it for the love, not the money, because it didn’t initially seem like they’d see very much of the post-Nirvana money that major labels were throwing at any underground band that could write a catchy tune and work with a big time producer in a vain attempt to recapture that Nevermind magic. Against all odds, all of the bands I listed above did sign to major labels and had limited success, with the exception of Sleep, who smoked their chances of mainstream success away when they recorded Jerusalem/Dopesmoker, which is a rather legendary story at this point. I’m not going to get into it because it would take me a whole month to properly separate the facts from the fiction. The blurring of fact and fiction is often what makes something seem legendary in its scope.
When I first heard the term “stoner rock”, it was 1999, and the term was not used in a positive way. Music critics used the term to belittle bands – it was a way of saying that the music was “dumbed” down. The alternate term was “cloner rock”, meaning that the bands in the scene were too much under the influence of the other bands in the scene. I do not necessarily disagree with this criticism; there was a lot of truth in those two words, “cloner rock”, and there still is today. People did not like their music being called “stoner rock” in 1999. Not in the U.S. anyways. Some bands in other countries did like having their music called stoner rock, because it tied them into a bigger movement while they were trying to gain any form of recognition. That’s one of the points – this form of music historically struggled to attain legitimacy. Sleep were one of the bands that garnered the movement some legitimacy, through the iconic status of their albums within the larger context of metal.
People seem to really like the term “stoner rock” now. I still don’t, because I remember. For years, we were told that the “stoner rock” legends, Sleep, were writing a new album. There have been hints, omens and portents, tidbits leaked out here and there, and never anything really concrete. Now, usually if a band of such stature is to record and release a new album, it’s accompanied by a LOT of fanfare: in studio reports, interviews about the writing process, promotional teaser trailer videos, releasing singles, streaming the album on NPR, bells, whistles, trumpets, banners, the whole nine yards. There’s a whole long and extended marketing and promotional strategy that goes into any major release, like a new Sleep album. Certainly a lot more than just dropping a rumor here or there for the past few years, then suddenly announcing on Thursday 4/19 that a new album will hit stores on 4/20. No one does that.
Unless, of course, they’ve got a very deliberate strategy in mind. Unless they’ve made a very, very limited amount of vinyl copies available at select stores, and no CD copies on this 4/20 “release date.” Because that would cause chaos, and really, really drive up the digital sales from online downloads. Just imagine it, people who had the day off would wake and bake, arrive at the local record store full of anticipation, and either be lucky enough to get a vinyl copy of the brand new, hotly anticipated surprise 4/20 Sleep album, or they’d find out they couldn’t buy it there because it was either completely sold out or just was NEVER in stock. Those who are lucky enough to get a copy are going to go home, open it up, gaze in wonder at the amazing packaging and extras, and then immediately take pictures and post them to social media. Those who cannot get a copy are going to be extremely envious, and leave the stores feeling extreme desire to possess a copy, or at least HEAR IT. Everyone wanted to be be a part of the big 4/20 Sleep party. No one wants to feel like they’ve been left out, especially when something is made to FEEL BIG. In that sort of a panic, the hype would become all encompassing, and the music itself would cease to even matter. This is unfortunately how human behavior often works. Why would you need any form of traditional marketing if you had a strategy that was so deliberately manipulative, so devious, and that preyed so heavily on the baser instincts of humankind?
Well, on Thursday April 19th 2018, when I waltzed into the local record store to get the skinny on this new Sleep album, it was very quickly apparent that this is what Jack White had dreamed up for us all. The people who worked there did not know they had a new Sleep album packaged with the other new releases set to hit the shelves the very next day. They had something from Third Ear Records that just said “Jack White recommends you listen to this” for a title, although it had a stock number. I was the one who told them a new Sleep album was coming out, they had no idea. And when the guy working went back to check, sure enough, there was ONE copy of the vinyl packaged in the order for Friday. One vinyl, and zero CD’s. This seemed rather odd, as a release of this magnitude, one that was already seeing so much hype because people were downloading it in Australia, should have more than one copy in a major chain store. I mean, they could sell way more copies, they could have sold 20 copies of the vinyl from that store, why only have one? And no CD’s? That makes no sense. So they went and checked their computers with the aforementioned stock number. Their stores had five copies in all of New England. There were no CD copies anywhere. This is one of the biggest record store chains in all of the New Englands. My other friends who owned or worked at smaller stores reported the same thing – very, very scarce supply of LP’s only. There were LP’s available for pre-order on the Third Man website, for eighty dollars. $80.Jack White now claims that was a mistake, and the price has been lowered to 30 something. Knowing that Soundgarden’s vinyl release of “Superunknown” sold for $60, you kind of have to wonder if it really was a mistake at all.
When the record store told me about the limited supply of vinyl and zero CD’s, I realized what was actually going on. It was intended to “sell out” from the start, driving up demand so that people would go and buy it online. Jack White could always make sure that there would be plenty of copies in the stores later on. The most important thing was naturally the underlying message inherent in the hype – whatever you do, you NEED to hear the new Sleep record on 4/20. Simple supply and demand economics – control and limit the supply of physical copies in order to drive up the demand and force digital downloads. Brilliant and deeply manipulative marketing. At the same time, not really fair to the fans, though very few rightfully cried out about how they were being screwed over. Why would they? As long as they bought into the hype and enjoyed the music, the ends justified the means, correct? Did Jack White fire six shots, or only five? In all the confusion, I kind of lost track myself. Even fully realizing what was going on and that I was being royally screwed, I was seriously tempted to call in to work so that I could get to the store when they opened at 10am to buy this stupid record, without hearing a single note of it. And that’s the true power of manipulative marketing, folks. Do you feel lucky? Well….do you, punk?
Don’t get me wrong – all marketing is deeply manipulative. That’s the nature of the beast. Better the beast you know then….I don’t know. Bands are generally pretty good at manipulation, at least the good ones are. Their job is basically to manipulate us into thinking they are the coolest thing ever, so that we talk them up, play their records for our friends, and most importantly, advertise their brand. That’s what you’re actually doing when you wear a band’s t-shirt – they’ve manipulated you into paying them so that you can advertise for them. That’s a really sweet deal if you’re a musician, and I guess an alright deal if you’re a fan who doesn’t really know any better. My bands do this same thing. Being in a band has been a breezy grift for a long time, since The Grateful Dead and KISS innovated merchandising and taught their fans that being a walking signboard was super cool. Most bands and fans are so embedded in the culture that they don’t stop to see it for what it really is, they just go on autopilot and BUY, then proselytize. Music fans are consumers, plain and simple. That’s the name of the game; consumerism. We’re all puppets in this game, it’s just that some of us can see our own strings, to borrow a metaphor from Alan Moore. Bands market to fans, fans in turn market for bands.
Jack White and Sleep just took it to a whole other level, they created a void within the traditional marketing scheme, an empty space where the fans who are used to being overly informed about a new release were given almost no information at all, therefore creating a feeding frenzy that would do 99% of the marketing on its own. They let loose the beast that none of us can ever truly knew. It’s brilliant, it’s bloody, and it’s also deeply troubling for the future of the scene. Those in the industry have struggled to fully capitalize on the sales potential of digital downloads. The internet was a game-changer. How Jack White found a simple, counter-intuitive way to market digital downloads to starved Sleep fans is also a game-changer.
So what about the actual music? If a band and label are willing to utilize this kind of marketing strategy, the music needs to at least live up to the hype, doesn’t it? No, actually it doesn’t. It only had to be close enough. Close doesn’t just count in horseshoes and hand grenades anymore. Close counts in carefully constructed hype as well. That’s the whole point. It’s not really about the music anymore, not at this level anyways. It’s about the cash grab.
I was just at the same record store. They finally got “The Sciences” CD’s in for this past Friday, one week past the 4/20 release date, and they’ve have been able to get a couple more vinyl copies since this whole debacle started. It’s sold out, and they have more on order. I talked to a friend of mine who works there, who thought I was looking to buy a copy of the vinyl. No, actually I was just doing research for this article. I asked him if he’d heard the record, he said that he’d heard it once, that it was fine and that it sounded like Sleep. He also said that some of the songs sounded a lot like Dopesmoker for a record that wasn’t trying to be Dopesmoker. Now, this was pretty much my initial reaction to the record as well, as many who saw me post about it on social media will attest. I rated it a 7/10, and I think that was being rather generous. The production is massive, the individual performances are at times spectacular, there are some quieter moments that are really well done, I liked how they broke the mold a bit at the end with “The Botanist.” Jason’s drumming is top notch throughout, and when Al or Matt break out and go for a bass break or a guitar solo, it’s pretty mind-melting. They obviously played their asses off. That’s about all the good things I can say about the record, quite honestly.
The end of the conversation with my acquaintance at the record store went something like this – after we talked about it being “fine” and such, I told him how some people were going ape-shit about it, like it was the second coming and some rough beast had slouched back to Bethlehem to be born. And he told me, “Well, people are dumb. They go ape-shit about things like this; things that they think they’re supposed to go ape-shit over, because a lot of people have told them that they should be going ape-shit over things like this.” I’m paraphrasing, and that to me is pretty spot on because it’s the exact thing that Jack White capitalized on. He has always capitalized on that, I mean, I’ve heard The White Stripes. To my ears, no one really capitalized on the music itself. It’s completely style over substance, with both The White Stripes and “The Sciences”.
The writing is not so hot for a Sleep record. It’s just not, I’m sorry. Listen to how some of these songs end abruptly, with no real resolution, just a screeching halt. That’s a sign of sloppy, hasty writing. Sure, it’s “fine”, as mentioned above, and Sleep never really did that before. And we’re talking about three guys who play in three really cutting edge bands when they’re not doing the whole Sleep thing. We’re talking about a band that are widely regarded as innovators and masters of this style. They’ve had all the time in the world to write this record, and this is the best they could come up with? Really?? I’m pretty disappointed, in case you can’t tell. Maybe you should also feel a bit of disappointment, at least on some level.
Sure, Dopesmoker was very goofy. I know some people love that goofy lyric “Drop out of life with bong in hand.” I personally find it pretty laughable, and I don’t like the overall lyrical themes on Dopesmoker very much. I get that for many this is an anthemic call to embrace a counter culture that existed at the time of the recording and has since gone extinct. I was always willing to give them a pass because even though I like Volume 1 and Holy Mountain much better, I realize that Jerusalem was quite groundbreaking and creative. Plus, they were very young. I will not give them a pass on this new record, because it is just dumb and they are supposedly older and wiser. Sorry, there’s no other way for me to candy coat it. It all seems really phoned in to me. Whereas Dopesmoker at least seemed to be channeling a higher creative power, The Sciences simply sounds completely half-baked, like the proverbial leftover half-eaten burrito that Sleep froze during the Dopesmoker recording sessions and now decided to defrost 20 odd years later in a crusty old microwave. Sure, that sounds kind of tasty if you’re ravished and there’s nothing else available, and do you really want to go there when there are plenty of other viable options? Shit man, Om in comparison is like the fresh all-you-can eat Indian buffet right down the street.
It’s great to finally have studio quality recordings of “Sonic Titan” and “Antarticans Thawed.” I enjoyed those. “Marijuanaut’s Theme” and “Giza Butler”? Not so much. Those two songs sound like really dumb Dopesmoker outtakes, with even dumber lyrics. Some of these lines are downright cringe-worthy. For most bands, I wouldn’t care, except you’re talking about a band with at least two guys who can write fantastical, mystical, deeply imaginative lyrics. High On Fire wrote a concept album about Jesus’s time travelling stillborn twin brother who was magically transported into an alternate universe. He then drove around in a van with his friends and a talking dog solving mysteries, or something like that. It’s also goofy, and it’s at least imaginative. Om writes about complex metaphysical constructs in a compelling way, and Al’s usage of language alone is pretty remarkable. It’s sometimes goofy, and sometimes profound. I’m not really sure if Jason writes any of Neurosis‘s lyrics, and I’m pretty sure he could write some that are better than the junior high school bullshit on full display in these so-called “songs” on “The Sciences”. I swear that they must have compiled these lyrics from some junkyard full of old wooden desks from the middle school I was imprisoned in during the year 1988, all engraved with the sage anecdotes and immortal poetry of wise “old soul” thirteen year olds who took out their teenage angst on those old oaken slabs that represented the prison bars of an adolescent mind yearning for freedom and autonomy. I matured slowly, so I probably wasn’t carving this kind of drivel into my desk until I was at least 16. Maybe this would be cool if Sleep were a band of 16 year old kids. They’re all older than me, which means they’re also old enough to know better. This doesn’t smell like teen spirit, it smells like middle aged diarrhea.
“Through the hashteroid fields”, “Marijuanaut loads a new bowl”, “Inhaler of a rifftree”, “Admixture sustains smokesuit as home”, “Planet Iommia nearing”. I’m embarrassed to be typing these lyrics. Those are BAD, and it gets even worse. “The Kiefsatz Hasherach now takes the Bong Jabbar. Marijuana is his light and his salvation. The CBDeacon. Bong Water of Life anoints the Muad Doob messiah”…..holy shit just kill me now. Fuck, you guys know I’m a huge Dune fan, right??? PLEASE. MAKE IT STOP. That’s just so fucking atrocious and needs to go away. Far away, right now. How the fuck am I ever supposed to enjoy my Dune books again after you’ve gone and done this? I have three Dune t-shirts that I now have to go and burn. Who thought this was a good idea?? It’s so stupid I’m actually embarrassed for Al, that he now has to sing this nonsense on a nightly basis. We get it, you like to listen to Black Sabbath, smoke pot and murder my favorite literature. That’s cute and all, why don’t you go write a song about….oh wait, you did. Nevermind. I don’t want to hear it ever again. Remember how most of you hated Star Wars – The Phantom Menace when it came out, and thought that George Lucas’s children must have written it because it was so juvenile at times? Or that he really needed to get his shit together after taking such a long time off from the Star Wars saga? Pot, meet kettle, you’re both blacker than the cover of a Spinal Tap album. These lyrics are juvenile and lame as fuck. You want to write about marijuana? How ’bout you write a concept album about a bunch of kids who are jailed by an evil overseer who locks them up for smoking the reefer, and then years later, when they’re all grown up, they suddenly realize that this same evil overseer is trying to monopolize on the marijuana market. I’d buy that. Just don’t tell Jack White that I’ll buy that.
Before I wrote this article, I was out wandering in the woods, listening to Traffic on my headphones, as I often do. I’ll let you in on a big secret – I’m more into psychedelic rock and punk/hardcore than anything else. Sure, I have a real soft spot for metal, particularly “stoner metal”, as it tends to have a large overlap with both psychedelic and punk rock. My point here is that shit, Traffic could write damn good lyrics that were overtly “druggy” without resorting to lame cliches and cheesy drug puns.
“Don’t look around to find the sound that’s right beneath your feet / The hermit sits inside his cave and seeks to know his mind / Staring into empty space and seeing into peoples’ faces / Others cannot find / Don’t look around to find the sound that’s right beneath your feet.”
Sure, it’s not William fucking Wordsworth. Traffic’s lyrics are sometimes self-consciously goofy, and for me they never cross that line into pure Dumb. This is largely because they talk about insights attained from the drug experience, rather than just repeating cliches about the drugs themselves. There is nothing insightful about the drug oriented nonsense that Sleep regurgitated on “The Sciences”. They’re pretty much a self mockery, like Sleep has subconsciously tried to parody their own surprising success. If Sleep had any insight whatsoever when they were writing these words, they would have realized just how fucking cheesy and dumb they were coming across as. Maybe I’m wrong and they’ll start giving interviews where they’re candid and admit, “Yeah, we wrote some really dumb shit about pot. It was fun at the time, and in retrospect we guess that it was also kind of a cash in. We’re not going to do that on the next album, we’ve gotten that out of our systems and we apologize for our regression into an infantile state.” I don’t see that happening though, unless enough people rightfully call them out on their bullshit.
We get spoon fed a lot of “Dumb” these days. A lot of Dumb, look at our so-called president. All this Dumb usually comes in two forms: Free Dumb, and Big Money Dumb. There’s usually an insidious connection between those two forms, and I’ll leave it to you to figure that all out. Let’s just say that the ideas behind Free Dumb are usually used to push Big Money Dumb, and Big Money Dumb is usually used in turn to promote the ideas behind Free Dumb. So I guess that’s what is perhaps the most disappointing thing about the new Sleep album to me personally – that it’s not only Dumb, it’s Big Money Dumb. For Jack White, this IS literally a 4/20 miracle. Think of the ca$h that this clown$hoe has made off of this giant, well polished turd $andwich that he’s been $poonfeeding us all for the past couple weeks. He has capitalized off $leep’s current pot-centric pop culture image, and the 4/20 $toner cliche holiday as well. And many of you are more than willing to eat this dude’s poop, with a very real shit eating grin on your faces the whole time. Don’t expect me to kiss any of you anytime soon, at least not with an open mouth. Pucker up, buttercup.
There’s a reason that I don’t want to write reviews, and would rather have the freedom to just write about whatever I want. If I were a reviewer, I wouldn’t be able to say a lot of these things, because record labels would not want to work with me or give me promos. Do you want to work with me? I certainly hope not. Do you think Jack White is going to be very happy about what I’ve said here? I certainly hope not.
Do you think Sleep would enjoy reading this? No, they shouldn’t. The problem is that this all really needs to be addressed. Reviews should be CRITICISM, the reviewers should be critics, and listen critically. That is rarely the case. Reviewing is usually just another form of marketing, a quid pro quo relationship where the labels and bands give the reviewers free copies and advanced listening IF they write glowing, hyperbolic things about the music and the labels. “This is the heaviest thing ever and the most important release of the year, possibly of all time. If you haven’t heard it, you must be living under a rock!” I could have written that about the new Sleep, or just about any other release that comes out, with a glib tongue romanticizing slower than molasses riffing and a gargantuan rhythm section that will pound you like a behemoth in heat. How many times can you all hear that before you realize it’s just a load of shit, empty words that are essentially bought and paid for? These “activities” run rampant within the current Scene.
If you’re really good to the labels and can consistently spin these same themes in different ways, you can go to shows for free with a press pass, free merch gets thrown your way, labels may pay for your transportation and lodging when you cover their showcases, they’ll buy you a van to travel around and solve mysteries in, you get the picture. The whole quid pro quo, this-for-that mentality is naturally toxic, and it’s going to slowly erode both your credibility and your ability to be critical about the music that you’re supposed to be reviewing critically. When that all goes away, the integrity of a scene and its music are also at risk. With no one around to hold bands and labels accountable, they can get lazy and complacent, and then so can the fans. Reviewers are usually glorified taste-makers at best, bought and paid for cheerleaders at worst. That needs to change. Reviewers need to find their own voice and challenge the bands and the labels alike. That’s their job, not sucking up for fucking freebies, folks.
I hope that Jack Whiteand Sleep do read this article. That’s the whole point, someone like me, I can speak to hard truths because I don’t give a fuck about the freebies. I don’t care about the social stature of being a glorified cheerleader for the scene, so I can say things that I know people will not initially like. I am basically a hermit who sits in his cave. I don’t want glory, I don’t even want you to like me, I only want self respect. I want to look in the mirror every morning and say, “Well, at least I’m trying to be a straight shooter rather than a bullshit artist, even though everything about our society tells me that being a bullshit artist is how you get places in life. Just look at our so-called president. At least I’m not like him. And at least I’m not like Jack Whiteor William Weld.”
I wouldn’t want Sleep to take away from this that I’m no longer a fan or that I hate “The Sciences”. Sure, I have very strong feelings on the subject, and the thing that I actually want them to take away from this diatribe is that I personally feel that they can do a lot better than this. They were once groundbreaking, and I’m willing to write this off as a one-time “we’re finding our way around the studio again” type of thing. I know some people have said “Who cares if it doesn’t break any new ground? I just want to be complacent and go along with the status quo!! New Sleep is awesome, I’m a cheerleader, 4/20 forever!!!”
Well, obviously I fucking care, kiddies, and I ain’t your cheerleader. I’m the guy who pisses in your punchbowl at prom. I’m all for hedonism and chasing the halcyon glow of the drug experience, and Sleep do an admirable job of attempting to capture that proverbial lightning in the bottle. They tried. Tried and failed – not tried and died. Luckily, the stakes aren’t that high yet. You’re lucky, Sleep. I am currently acting as your judge, and I refuse to be your executioner. Someone like my musically inclined buddy Patrick Bateman would probably kill you and play with your blood, because he’s just that kind of guy. You’re certainly lucky that you get to utilize Dune references in such an odious way without subjection to the actual deadly consequences laid out in those novels, but I digress as usual. The point is that we can’t stay high forever, we can’t just live with our head perpetually up our asses, or we’re all going to crash very, very hard. The point is that there are very harsh realities that we must all face at some point in our lives. Sleep need to face the natural consequences of their actions. The Sciences is not a thinking person’s album – it’s a call to stop thinking and to embrace The Dumb. It’s a call to be an avid consumer of vapid popular pot culture.
Rick famously tells Morty that school is not a place for smart people, and illustrates that with the obvious example that they give you a piece of paper telling you when you can take a dump. I agree with Rick. I think that Rick would agree with me, that The Sciences is not an album for smart people, and Jack White told you when and where he was going to take a massive steaming dump. On 4/20. On top of us all.
I assured Matthew Thomas that this is not a hit piece. It can’t be, there’s no hit here. Jack White, Bill Weld, and John Boehner are all on base, only because they walked there when no one was keeping score, and I’m not sure who’s on first anymore. Sleep certainly struck out, even though their coach slow-pitched them the ball underhand after they knocked over the tee five times (baseball fans??). Then everyone told us “alternative facts”, that Sleep hit the biggest home run of all time, the heaviest home run, if you missed it you live under a rock inside a cave, it was like a behemoth mounting a tyrannosaurus, etc etc. That’s just a ploy so that White, Weld and Boehner can steal home while we’re all staring at the sun.
I firmly believe that Sleep are still capable of doing more albums that are literal game changers. Albums that push back and force the scene to think, to grow and to evolve. If everyone just lines up to kiss their asses, reviewers and fans alike, they have no impetus to grow and evolve. Why do anything differently if everyone says what you just did was the greatest thing ever, 10/10, perfect? Fuck that noise, nothing is perfect and artists need to strive to outdo themselves with every new project, to set the bar for themselves continually higher. You get an overly generous 7 out of 10, $leep, and that’s only because I like you. And if this is “liking”, you don’t want to see what it looks like when I no longer like you. Please don’t put me in that position, I implore you. Sleep, if you can read these words, do better. You are fucking getting PAID now guys, which is fine and dandy. Earn your motherlickin’ keep. That’s all I’m asking. Do better. You’re one of my biggest influences. This new album, it does not inspire me like your others, and that saddens me. Quit capitalizing on commercial pot culture, because it’s fucking lame, guys, and you can do better. I’ll get over it, and I’d just like you to know that I believe in you. This all comes from a place of love, and the hope that my “blunt” honesty (See, I can make cheesy pot puns too guys! Can I sit with the cool kids now?) will be an impetus for self-reflection and ultimately for change. Blow my mind with your next album. I dare you. You get the “Nice Swing” award for The Sciences, even though you struck out. Big time. But you sure looked impressive in the on deck circle, practicing that big swing. Learn from that, and next time, step up to the plate and knock it out of the park. Either way, I’ll buy you ice cream after the game. And I’ll still feed Matt Pike leftover French Onion soup and put on the Raiders game for him if he stumbles into my place of business all blurry eyed and hung over (true story).
Fans – demand better from the bands that you’re fans of, in both content and delivery. When you don’t like how they deliver your product to you, when they use sketchy marketing tactics and fuck with your expectations, let them know that it’s not okay. Take the five minutes to write an email to the band and the label, and share with them a piece of your mind. That’s what knocked the price down from $80 for the vinyl, which was apparently a “mistake.” We’re all so groomed for distraction and instant gratification that we’re now also ripe for exploitation. We don’t have to put up with either “mistakes” or purposely limited distribution on a seemingly crucial release. We deserve better.
Reviewers, do your fucking job, and call shit when you smell it. Don’t be afraid to be critical, and to rock the boat a bit. It’s your job. Go do it. Or else the next $leep album might be even more of a $nore.
For those who legitimately love this new Sleep album, fans and reviewers alike, kudos to you. It’s a dirty job, and someone has to do it. In many ways I envy you. I wish I could love it, I really do. I just can’t. There’s a reason that Judas Priest’s “Never Satisfied” is a favorite of mine.
So in conclusion, thanks for tuning in to my first edition of “Andy does not give very many fucks anymore about appeasing anyone.” Maybe next time I’ll write about how some of the latest from The Sword album reminds me of Phish. Then again, maybe not. I’m really looking forward to writing about the new music from ABBA, who are one of my favorite bands of all time, and who are much more important and profitable than $leep in The Grand $cheme. I also really hope that you all enjoy your nap time, and your dreams are sweet and such. I’ll still be drinking black coffee and staring at the walls when you all decide to wake up from your precious little $leep.