Longtime fans of guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich will recognize his signature tone almost immediately on Switchouse/Crossthreaded, the debut 7” from his new project, Premonition 13 (released via Volcom Entertainment’s vinyl club in a limited edition green-record pressing of 1,000), but there’s something different going on too. Something strange. Spoiler alert: It’s another guitar. Though Premonition 13 remains, as of this release, a power trio with Weinrich adding bass to his guitar and singing duties, he’s joined in this new project by guitarist and longtime friend Jim Karow, who proves no slouch when it comes to keeping up with the blazing leads and huge-footed stomping grooves. The two tracks they present – “Switchouse” and “Crossthreaded,” oddly enough – find Weinrich well in his element songwriting-wise, and though it’s not the first time he’s worked with another guitarist, it is the first time he’s worked with a guitarist doing this. Where the supergroup Shrinebuilder, in which he shares six-string responsibility with Scott Kelly of Neurosis, draws from elements of its various members’ bands, Premonition 13 feels very much in the vein of Weinrich’s trio projects – Spirit Caravan, The Hidden Hand, the Wino band – though perhaps more the former than the latter.
“Switchouse” begins immediately with a solo and moves quick into its verse. Judging by tone alone, I’d guess it’s Karow’s lead with Weinrich on the backing track, but I could be wrong, and before you know it, the song’s started anyway. The double-guitars don’t affect arrangement much, at least as compares to a record like the Wino band’s Punctuated Equilibrium – Weinrich’s prior release in the trio format, now over two years old – in that the song is rife with soloing in almost every bridge, which is how it should be, or at least what expectation dictates. Drummer Matthew Clark keeps a standard middle pace, not unreasonably fast, not overwhelmingly slow, but steady on his cymbals and snare. There isn’t any trickery going on stylistically, either. The song is more or less straightforward in its structure, verse/chorus, etc., and apart from some backing “ooh”s from Weinrich, there isn’t much to catch listeners off guard. That’s not to say the song is boring. Rather, it harkens at a similar kind of easy-riding atmosphere as Spirit Caravan’s landmark debut, Jug Fulla Sun, and blends it with a kind of “you’re going to get screwed over” social critique in the lyrics to result in a brew so distinctly Weinrich’s that I almost feel like I’m downplaying Karow’s involvement by not including him more in the description. If Premonition 13 is looking to make an opening statement with Switchouse/Crossthreaded, side A does so definitively.
In contrast to “Switchouse,” which is more decidedly riff-based, side B’s “Crossthreaded” feels much more like a jam. It runs at a faster pace and reminds in its opening riff of when Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” kicks back in from the quiet part, tempered with Motörhead. The song is completely instrumental, which is fine, since Weinrich and Karow have no trouble filling that space with abundant, spontaneous-sounding solos. At about 1:35, they come together in the midst of dueling leads and the real potential of the Premonition 13 project is revealed. Switchouse/Crossthreaded, especially in its back half, seems to be Karow proving he can keep up with Weinrich’s bluesy shred, and if that’s the case, and the band continues to develop on that principle, with two lead guitarists of such prowess, they could easily become something really special and unique in Weinrich’s catalog. I’m not necessarily saying Karow’s the same level guitarist as Weinrich – it would be a pairing like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker – but they complement each other well, and if they can bring the energy of “Crossthreaded” into a full-length Premonition 13 release, the potential for what they can accomplish is virtually limitless. “Crossthreaded” is more than a full minute shorter than “Switchouse,” but in terms of what each demonstrates about the viability of the unit, the instrumental speaks volumes.
Aside from “something,” you never really know where Weinrich is headed next in terms of releases. 2011 may yet bring a new album from Shrinebuilder, and after issuing the solo full-length Adrift and subsequent split single with Scott Kelly, one imagines more acoustic work is in the future, but provided proper time to grow, Premonition 13 could easily turn into a boon for the heads out there who’ve been bemoaning the loss of Spirit Caravan for the decade since their last album. I’ll make no bones about being a fan of Weinrich’s work over the course of his career, and instead of feigning impartiality, just say that as a fan, I’m glad to hear him so much in the pocket of his signature approach, and glad that among supergroups and acoustic playing (all of which I think there’s room for), this kind of thing didn’t get lost in the shuffle. The man does doom rock like no one else, and as an outlet for that, Premonition 13 stands as tall as any of the other projects in the Wino discography. Loyal followers don’t need me to say it, but Switchouse/Crossthreaded is not to be missed.
Tags: Premonition 13, Volcom, Wino