Music News

The Warlocks / The Greenhornes

These two groups, who share the bill on Friday, November 15, at the 15th Street Tavern, aren't taking popular music to places it's never been. Far from it: In many respects, the Warlocks and the Greenhornes are throwbacks to a long-ago time when rock and roll was more about making noise and celebrating mayhem than modeling for Vogue and kissing Carson Daly's ass. But even if the much vaunted "return of rock" turns out to be more wishful thinking than quantifiable fact, these discs would still come as a welcome relief from the carefully marketed product currently clogging most CD stores.

The Warlocks, from California, will be lumped into the stoner category by most observers, and it's their own damn fault: Phoenix Album, the act's latest full-length, includes "Shake the Dope Out" and "The Dope Feels Good," titles that aren't shy about Just Saying Yes. But rather than simply grinding out leaden grooves like most members of this particular camp, singer/guitarist Bobby Hecksher and his assorted comrades merge metal with drones not far removed from those deployed by Spacemen 3 and other arty practitioners of the new psychedelia. This approach leads to tunes such as "Hurricane Heart," which maintains a certain hazy cool throughout yet features a beat that will inspire vigorous hair-tossing moves even by listeners whose heads look like Patrick Stewart's. Likewise, "Cosmic Let Down" moves at the speed of sludge but begins and ends with ambient tones that serve the same purpose as the guy in the acid-casualty tent who reassures trippers that their hands haven't turned into vampire bats. Amid the chaos, Phoenix Album rises from the ashes.

The Greenhornes, a four-piece from Cincinnati, are a less complicated combo. On Dual Mono, they emerge as a 21st-century version of the Standells, bashing away at their rudimentary tools like God's own garage band. There are plenty of memorable ditties here, from the driving opener, "Satisfy My Mind," to the winning closer, "Gonna Get Me Someone" -- but "The Way It's Meant to Be," penned by lead vocalist/guitarist Craig Fox, serves as the blueprint. The tune opens with a meaty riff that sets the tone for a whopping eight seconds before the start of the first verse, which fills the next thirty seconds with gritty wailing and background ahhhhhs straight from the crypt. After the second verse has run its course, Fox chops at his ax for sixteen seconds more before returning to the song, which builds to an ecstatic epiphany in less than three minutes total.

Whoever said "Haste makes waste" has apparently never listened to a Greenhornes CD.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts