By: Matt Butler
The Well | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Bandcamp |
Released on October 14, 2016 via RidingEasy Records
You can smell the sandalwood with this one: definitely an album for laying back on crushed velvet cushions while you wait for the absinthe to be poured and the seance to begin. Yep, it’s another Riding Easy so-retro-it’s-current release – and it is very good. Sure, it sounds as if it emanated from a particularly heady episode in a pungent basement decorated in silk throws in the early 1970s, but you kind of expect that from the California label.
This is The Well‘s second album – their debut, Samsara was the first item I bought from Riding Easy, as it happens – and they have progressed since then, but still keep the slightly spooky, echo-laden edge to their brand of doomy, psychedelic stoner rock.
One thing though: at first glance, the 11 tracks on offer suggest a feast of psychedelic goodies. But then you discover that two of those are interludes, another couple are half-formed chants or jams and the final track is a cover of a Crosby Stills and Nash song, ‘Guinnivere’ – which does little except highlight that the preceding songs sound better. Given that the label is offering all manner of freaky coloured vinyl in limited numbers (and correspondingly ascending prices), you’d want a little more effort put in to the actual music.
Because The Well can write great songs – all of which fall inside the five minute mark, which is a welcome change to the “riff till you nod off” band of heavy revivalists – and they transport you back in time as swiftly as those Vietnam War movie soundtracks used to.
A highlight is the ‘Drug from the Bank’, which sounds like blues from the wrong side of the bible and contains the following lyrics, which sum up the mood of the entire album: “Me and a woman put our hands to the goatskin drum. The children in the trees didn’t know if they should dance or run.”
The opening two songs are also well worth a listen: ‘Black Eyed Gods’ and ‘Skybound’, both of which have riffs that Blue Cheer would have been proud to call their own. And ‘Pilgrimage’ shows a more languid side of the band, along with giving Lisa Alley (who also plays bass) ample time to shine alongside her fellow vocalist Ian Graham, who also plays guitar and sounds uncannily similar to the singer of label-mates Salem’s Pot. ‘Byzantine’, which begins with monastic chanting and ends up the heaviest of the whole album, is also a hoot, with its religious lyrics and moody tone.
So is it essential? Probably not. But it is fun. And it reeks of a joss-stick-scented time that most of us never knew and our parents never told us about.