By: Andy Little
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Released on September 30, 2016 via Napalm Records
Founder of legendary stoner/desert rockers Kyuss, and self-confessed hippie, Brant Bjork, returns with his second album with his Low Desert Punk Band. A unit he had formed after several years of going alone as a solo artist. Brant has previously, in interviews, talked about the special chemistry in the band and how he is interested in exploring the pre-metal sound just prior to the emergence and consequent abundant use of pedals, in conjunction with the new possibilities provided by the development of amplified sound in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
He begun this process with the free-flowing extended jam feel of their debut Black Power Flower, which took a noticeably heavier direction than his previous solo efforts. So the most obvious influences brought to the table are San Francisco’s late 1960’s, early 1970’s, psychedelic blues rockers Blue Cheer, and a dash of Santana’s in the moment vibes.
This follow up album Tao of the Devil pretty much continues in the same direction with no attempt at all at venturing into modernity, but it still has a few differences to the debut. The songs are more concise, structured, boasts a smoother production, and is even more openly cured and smoked in the blues, but most importantly, the groove still remains reassuringly intact. In fact, the album sounds extremely confidently assembled, and manages to bridge a 1970’s laid back, hair swaying in the hot breeze, mellowness to the bluesy stoner rock grooves.
Yes, without intending to go down the road towards sounding cliché, this album distinctively has a sound made in the surroundings of a hot Californian or Nevada sun, long hair and shades, a car cruising journey along a long deserted road, a world away from a busy complex metropolitan modern city setting as you could possibly get. On ‘Humble Pie’ Brant explains “I was born in the heat of Southern California”, but his life is not free from all troubles, especially of the heart, but he still is able to convey a positive spin, “would you believe a broken heart was the key to set me free.”
‘Stackt’, ‘Humble Pie’, and ‘Luvin’ are prime examples of this tighter song based format. But, there is still room for the glorious 10 minutes long ‘Dave’s War’. It starts as the album’s purest rocker mixing a Stooges type bar chord sequence, with Brant sounding akin to the Cult’s Ian Astbury, before it changes its tone completely and heads into a hypnotic mesmerising bluesy stoner rock groove. While ‘Biker No. 2’ showboats arguably the coolest bluesiest riff and hip-swinging swagger vibe displayed on the whole album.
The closing title track tries to keep the hypnotic groove going, but set at a very slow pace that could be too plodding and ponderous if taken out of context on an iPod shuffle. But this is, in the best sense of the word, an album track, and this is a record to be played from start to finish in one setting. So if by the time you get to the end and you have been seductively immersed in the album’s mellow rock grooves, when Brant croons the album’s last line “I’ve got the blues, deep in my bones”, it all makes perfect sense. At its core this is an old fashioned blues album and while life has its troubles they can be sorted out with an alacrity attitude.
In essence, Brant and his Low Desert Punk rockers may be men out of their time, but they have created an effortlessly sounding, unashamedly retro, sun drenched, bluesy, big fat spliff stoner rock vibe. A kickback to a bygone era but very endearing and it hits the right spot.