III, Los Angeles rockers Sasquatch’s appropriately-titled third album for Small Stone, is like one of those girls. We all know those girls. You see them out and about whenever you’re brave enough to leave the house, and those girls know they’re super hot, and they know they’re way out of your and everyone else’s league, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Hit them with a bus and they’d still be hot. They know it, you know it. Even your girlfriend wants to have sex with these girls, and if she says otherwise, she’s lying.
III is like that, but with rock. And instead of being a total bitch, it’s all into Planet of the Apes and The Simpsons and stuff. Maybe I’m projecting.
In any case, what the trio does with this album is fuse the unmitigated fuzz stonerism of their first, self-titled album, with the classic feel of its 2006 follow-up, resulting in a brand of rock as much indebted to Grand Funk as Fu Manchu. III doesn’t even immediately strike as a stoner rock record, with opener “Get out of Here” (as in, “I gotta…”) based on a solid groove, but executed in a manner thoroughly modern despite any Southern rock influence. Highlight cuts “Pull Me Under,” “Burning Bridges” and the more boogieing “Walkin’ Shoes” follow likewise patterns, but somehow remain definitively stoner rock. The only answer is that Sasquatch are reshaping the genre to suit their needs.
“Pull Me Under” (thankfully not a Dream Theater cover) rocks slower than either the riffy and catchy “Complicated” or the chunkier, Helmet-style starts and stops of “Soul Shaker,” and with no shortage of character. Immediately following “Get out of Here,” “Took Me Away” centers around a bluesy riff executed with more than a little fuzz grown in. There’s more going on with III than fuzz and riffs though. Guitarist/vocalist Keith Gibbs is definitely at the center of the proceedings, but bassist Cas and drummer Rick Ferrante push the songs onto another level entirely, adding personality and well-placed flourishes to the material that prove both memorable and exciting to the ear.
If anything, I’d like to hear Gibbs take similar liberties with his material. Why not throw a quick squibbly lead line in between two verse riffs? It’s long since clear by the time the record’s back half opens with the acoustic-based Monster Magnetry of “New Disguise” that Sasquatch have a talent for arrangement waiting to be put to use, but there are moments of III that seem to be calling for a playfulness of which the band mostly steers clear. Fortunately, there’s enough rock to go around on a mid-paced groover like “Queen” that these are at best momentary distractions. And though I don’t want to tell Sasquatch how to run their band or anything, they could easily milk that guitar solo in “Queen” for another 17 minutes or so. Just saying.
“Leave it up to You” echoes the simple, catchy structure of “Complicated,” despite a somewhat slower pace and more laid back feel. Another killer solo from Gibbs plays out over running grooves from Cas, and it’s once again apparent that with Sasquatch it’s not just about any one player, but rather how well the three members of the band fit together as a unit and the yet-underappreciated excellence of their songwriting. Though “Bare My Soul” borders on hard psychedelia, “No More Time” once again grounds the album with a return to the faster rocking side of the band they showed on III’s first half. Like “Took Me Away,” the track is on the shorter side, but missing nothing and demonstrative that the presence shown throughout these songs doesn’t wane even when it could reasonably be expected to do so.
Aforementioned closer “Burning Bridges” marches III out on one of its most free-flowing, jammed-out moments, and as though it hadn’t been established already, once again the album proves worth the wait. I don’t know what held the band up between II and III, but these songs have the makings of classics in the genre, and are firm reminders of why Sasquatch are the great American hope for the next generation of stoner rock. I could continue to wax philosophical or fall into exaggerated hyperbole about how much ass this record and this band kick, but if you’ve made it this far into the review, you probably know that already. And if not, you’ll know it as soon as you listen to the album. 2010 just got its first highlight.
Tags: California, Los Angeles, Sasquatch, Small Stone