So, I have this girlfriend. Which seems like a trite way to put it, doesn’t really describe the relationship we’re developing. Not only is she open to Stoner/Doom/Heavy Psych and all the underground stuff I dig, but she’s started her own blog. That’s just how she rolls: it’s not so much that I’m interested in it as she’s genuinely into it.
At first, she listened to my recommendations. But now, after like two weeks, she’s doing deep-dive into deep cuts, on her own. Just a while ago, she sent me this song: wanted my opinion.
Holy crap! Road to Burn from the 2011 (now) classic Super Van Vacation. You’ve got to be kidding me. That’s enough of a shock, but then I realized I haven’t listened to this gargantuan monster of an album since…I have no idea! And even then, only once or twice
So, where was my head back in ’11? I have no clue. All I know is I never saved it, never explored it, never gave much attention other than the obligatory “album of the year contender” on some bass or headphone forum.
Maybe it’s the obvious nod to Kyuss. I was probably still grieving six years after the end of that era. I think it hit too close to home, unwilling to embrace band like that.
Maybe it’s the fuzzed-out mastery competing with other fuzzed-out masters: Orange Goblin, Red Fang, Orchid, Eternal Elysium, Truckfighters or any other countless bands. Maybe the name, which struck me as an electronic dance music kind-of-name.
Whatever it was: my loss. The album fell off my radar. But: why am I making a big deal about it?
Well, for one thing it’s one of the heaviest stoner albums I remember hearing. And while there are obvious nods to Kyuss, it’s not exactly derivative. Stoner isn’t about originality as much as it is about feeling and groove. Check out this track, for example:
It’s just a great choice. The monster riffs, the groove of the rhythm section, and band singing loose slightly out of time. ‘Disciplined Sloppiness’ is the phrase that comes to mind, and kinda describes Stoner as a whole. It’s casual in a way most of todays music simply isn’t. It’s about having a good time more than having a big hit, more about groove and feel, as I mentioned before. And that ending! The slow nod of banging heads, fists raised in celebration.
It’s about relationship, more so than other forms of rock, I think. There’s an intimacy to the best Stoner/Doom that’s hard to find elsewhere. Sure, Iron Maiden has an intimate relationship with their fans. Same with Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and the Foo Fighters. People relate.
But that’s on a mass scale with hundreds of thousands packed into stadiums, the artist so far away you need huge screens to see them. They live behind 20-foot walls and remote controlled gates. Contact with the public isn’t safe when you’re at that level: people being as batshit as people tend to be.
The Stoner tribe tends to live in the ‘burbs….
This music, live, is more likely to be a couple hundred packed into some renovated garage. Floor and stage painted black, people standing and digging each other, admiring the patches and pins on their battle vests and jackets, band shirts worn in a ritual of short-form communication and community. Oh, and almost everyone is in their own band, just checking out their sisters and brothers and supporting them by buying merch. Which is usually sold by members or partners of the band.
The recording, many times live with a few overdubs, is raw. Not Black Metal raw-but real, natural, even organic. The relationship of the instruments is also key: everyone playing to the song, not the solo. Bass holds down the riffs and tempo, drums blasting all over the place in a fury of cymbal-laden syncopation. Vocals are mostly there to support the guitar: audibility is optional, as long as it doesn’t get in the way.
But always, it’s about relationship and community. One big family of fuzz and volume, all struggling to create that feeling of hearing Under the Sun or Star Shaped Cloud for the first time. Writing that next riff that catches the next generation and inspires them to start their own bands in a garage, then split the beer sales and get tips in a coffee can from the 15 to 20 people at the gig, and compels the next dude or dudette.
Or, if you’re lucky, watch your lover while she works on her next post, sharing stories and songs over a good cup of coffee…