totally... by StönerRelease date: May 6, 2022
Label: Heavy Psych Sounds Records
When Stöner released their debut album, Stöner’s Rule back in June 2021 it looked like a joke had rather spectacularly backfired. Sure, there’s no one who can take ownership of that name more than Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri, as members of Kyuss they helped invent this shit. By now it wasn’t even trolling the music press to call themselves something so on-the-nose, everybody knows what to expect from these guys. So a lot of people were really excited to see what Bjork and Oliveri, along with Brant Bjork Band’s drummer, Ryan Gut, would cook up. Surely it was going to be one righteous desert punk stew? Well, unfortunately and very surprisingly, the guys dropped the bong on their debut, it just plain didn’t work. Having seen the band live in the past few days I can attest that it wasn’t the songs, per se, that let it down, but the production and the performances, which are pretty flat. It sounds tired and restrained, and as my colleague Andy Little said, it feels more like their 17th album than their first. Maybe the weed was too strong? Bummer, right?
Well, totally is totally different. That was made plain of the first tune to be released ahead of the album ‘A Million Beers’, which rollicks and bustles out of the speakers like a stampede of wildebeest, driven by Gut’s powerhouse drumming. Bjork takes lead vocals on a lyric full of slightly cryptic stoner signifiers “Ace Frehley and funny stuff” like some short hand version a very long life on the rock n’ roll front line. The band sound energised, vigorous and just delighted to be here.
The real strength of the album, however, is in the interplay between Bjork and Oliveri. The songs are fine, they’re fun, even occasionally *gasp* profound, but they wouldn’t be half as good without the magic that’s happening between these two old comrades. I’m reminded of the relationship between Chuck D and Flavor Flav, where Chuck’s controlled anger is leavened by Flav’ manic, unpredictable court jester act. Now I’m not calling Oliveri’s performance clownish here, but he’s hardly known for his restraint or, shall we say, good taste. In fact I’ve always had a little bit of an issue with his singing, suffice to say I find a little goes a long way. His pairing with Bjork here is fantastic tho, especially on the super-gonzoid fuzz of ‘Party March’, Bjork’s repetition of Oliveri’s rabble rousing in his authoritative but laidback tones just elevates the whole show.
With song titles like ‘Party March’, ‘Stöner’s Theme’ and ‘A Million Beers’ you know this album is about bringing the big, hedonistic vibes, and that it does in fine style – there’s a couple of tunes here that rank amongst the best no nonsense boogies the boys have ever produced. As you’d expect it tends to be Oliveri that leads the way on the nuttier moments, but it’s probably the ones where Bjork takes the lead that are the real keepers. Now ‘Strawberry Creek (Dirty Feet)’ is one of the funkiest, hell yes, sexiest tunes Bjork has ever put his name too. He really is a twinkly old horn dog, like Barry White in a bandana, by the end of the tune you may need to take a pregnancy test.
But wait, what of the profundity I spoke of? Well may I present ‘Turn it Around Now’ with some of Bjork’s finest, gnomic, stoner wisdom, such as – “If it’s up hill all the time, it’s the wrong way” – Preach it, brother Brant! He’s the real dude, no question.
Well like the songs says, they turned it around and totally…puts them firmly back on track. A gloriously good time.