Agony Shorthand

Thursday, June 26, 2003
WARLOCKS : “THE PHOENIX ALBUM”….It took me a while to get up my bravery to purchase this one – some advance exposure to the band’s lesser early tracks had me skeptical that the raves they were getting were for anything beyond their propensity to sing about their own drug use. (An aside: is it just me, or is hearing an adult sing about heroin and pills and dope not particularly impressive? I’m a longtime proponent of regulated legalization, but the lingering drug culture associated with rock and roll is so, so fucking tired. And – gasp – very HIPPIE to boot!). Then I downloaded track #3 from THE WARLOCKS' 2002 “Phoenix Album”, a magnificent swirl of controlled psychedelic chaos called “Baby Blue”. WOW. I needed some more. Here’s a band that’s a tonic for our please-entertain-me times – an octet (!) who coolly play in a laconic, heavy-lidded VELVET UNDERGROUND style, but with layers and layers of aggro squealing out of what sounds at times like about forty guitars. And the record is solid all the way through. The opening “Shake The Dope Out” is as anthemic as “Baby Blue” and almost as good; taken together as a 45, it’d easily be one of the best 7” records of the past 15 years. There are several forays into zoned-out SONIC BOOM territory, which is appropriate because Mr. Boom actually plays on this record (not sure exactly where, but it probably isn’t hard to figure out). I’m particularly impressed with Bobby Hecksher’s velvet-throated “come down easy” vocals; the guy’s got a way of wrapping his vocals around a pound of feedback and at times brutally heavy riffs as good as anyone else’s who’s tried. I’m not saying by any means that this stuff is anywhere near original; even my wife was alarmed by blatant VU, Black Sabbath and Spacemen 3 rip-offs on her first listen, and we both came to the instant conclusion that the number entitled “The Dope Feels Good” is, well, kinda dumb. But this is one of the most consistently pleasing long-players of our short millennium thus far. Choosy musical stock pickers are rating “The Phoenix Album” a Strong Buy!