When Forrest Gump’s mom advised, “Life is like an LSD trip, Forrest. You never know when the room is gonna turn into a blob of Day-Glo slime oozing off a twirling disco ball while disjointed limbs jut out from the walls and try to throttle you,” she probably set the poor sap’s therapy back by years. OK, so maybe that’s not exactly how she put it. But if she’d simply handed him a Warlocks rec, life’s maddening twists might’ve been easier to comprehend. Or at least face.
The 64-minute Phoenix (not to be confused with the similarly titled Phoenix EP, which has some song overlap and clocks in at, ahem, 66 minutes) picks up where last year’s Rise and Fall left off, i.e., flat on the floor, staring glassy-eyed at the ceiling, flecks of spittle at the corners of the mouth, pants pulled down around ankles, assorted pills and powders spilling from the pockets … [That’s quite enough, Fred. — Morals Ed.] But I digress. This LA band has been terrorizing the heartland since the previous album, winning on a nightly basis converts to its sick-uh-delic cause. In concert or on record — for which a room-expanding, very live vibe is pervasive — the band’s sonic thuggery unfolds via several key Warlock’s motifs. In “Shake the Dope Out,” for example, the eight-piece combo perches with one collective knee genuflecting at the choogle-altar of the Velvet Underground and the other at the 13th Floor Elevators’ throbbin’ kiosk; it’s one of those melts-in-your-mind-not-in-your-hands tunes about — duh — dope. There’s also a fuzztone slab of garage-psych about, um, dope (“The Dope Feels Good,” featuring a guest appearance on guitar by Spacemen 3/Spectrum/E.A.R. maestro Sonic Boom) that’s as good-timey as anything on the Nuggets box set. And speaking of the good Mr. Boom, there are a coupla cortex-shearing Spacemen 3 homages (“Moving and Shaking,” “Hurricane Heart”) whose zaggy textures and bleary-eyed lyrics definitely imply that they are about, dare we say it, dope. You can draw your own conclusion about “Oh Shadie,” a 14-minute backwards song well worth taping and then playing forwards. Turn me on, dead man, har-har! Other impressions that flit by include Jesus & Mary Chain, MC5, Cramps and Hawkwind, outfits never shy in their heydays about wearing their intakes on their sleeves.
This is not to say that there’s any advocacy going on here. In fact, earlier this year Warlocks leader Bobby Hecksher e-mailed me to let me know he would prefer not to be known as a drug band. Truth be known, good head music is good head music, and if the Warlocks’ brand of unapologetic influence-peddling salutes the great drug music of yore without actually having to go out in blazing, debauched glory, that’s fine. Taken as a whole, the album jolts you like an acid trip with all the ego bullshit and hand jive cut out and boiled down to a psychologically cleansing one-hour therapy session. It’s simultaneously vertiginous and serene enough to suggest just how the Forrest Gumps of the world — who have no real say in their particulars — are forced to view life. It ain’t a goddamn box of chocolates, that’s for sure.
E-mail Fred Mills at [email protected].