What a question. Understand, I’m not talking about a grouping based on sound. I mean bands from the desert in California. It’s a limited bunch of musicians, centered around a few interconnected acts that have had a tremendous impact on stoner rock the world over. Although I think they’ve made some of the most important contributions to the genre, I’m including no outside bands here. It’s all about location.
Five bands you need to know, and which album to get. Here goes:
1. Yawning Man: Most often credited as originators of the desert scene, an instrumental trio with Gary Arce, Mario Lalli (also Fatso Jetson) and Alfredo Hernandez (also Kyuss). Their new album, Nomadic Pursuits (review here), is fantastic and a great display of the influence they’ve had on those who’ve followed them, but recommendations for 2005′s Rock Formations are valid.
2. Kyuss: They’re the hallmark act of stoner rock, with import not just limited to the bands former members have launched (Queens of the Stone Age, Unida, Slo Burn, Brant Bjork, Mondo Generator, etc.). Welcome to Sky Valley is an all-time classic. As necessary as oxygen.
3. Fatso Jetson: Mario Lalli (also Yawning Man) started this band with cousin Larry Lalli and drummer Tony Tornay to express a love of early ’80s hardcore, and have kept that as a root to this day. Start with their first album, Stinky Little Gods on Greg Ginn‘s SST label.
4. Brant Bjork: The former Kyuss and Fu Manchu drummer is a key player in desert rock. His first album, Jalamanta (1999) is probably the single best interpretation of the genre, and intimate records like Local Angel and the acoustic Tres Dias have more personality in one song than most bands do in a career.
5. Masters of Reality: Chris Goss, in addition to being the producer of Kyuss‘ finest work and numerous other bands, is a songwriting genius. 2001′s Deep in the Hole is a masterpiece that blends pop bliss and heavy tonality. Some will recommend their earliest albums and be wrong for doing so.
That should get your exploration going. I could just as easily recommend Brant Bjork‘s Ché project, or Unida‘s unreleased album, but I think these are easy to come by, the obvious picks, and the way to go if you’re just getting acquainted with the music. Goatsnake has some elements of this sound, and vocalist Pete Stahl‘s involvement with Fred Drake‘s earthlings? and the mellowness of Orquesta del Desierto make him a figure in the scene, but neither act is a great place to start.
If you find you’ve heard this stuff already and you’re craving more, there’s the first Queens of the Stone Age album, Fred Drake‘s solo material, the several Desert Sessions releases, Yawning Sons and Gary Arce‘s numerous other projects and collaborations to be had, and of course, the thousands of bands from elsewhere in the world influenced by these acts.
If you’re reading this and you have any suggestions, hit up the comments. I’d love to know about any lost gems or contrary opinions.
Tags: Brant Bjork, California, Fatso Jetson, Kyuss, Palm Desert, Slo Burn, Yawning Man