Friday Full-Length: Sons of Otis, Spacejumbofudge

Sons of Otis, Spacejumbofudge (1996)

What’s not to like about Sons of Otis? Putting on the Toronto trio’s 1996 debut LP, Spacejumbofudge, is like listening to Monster Magnet at half-speed — an engrossing murk of tone and gurgling heavy psychedelia that feels like it’s swallowing audience and universe alike. The core of the band’s sound has always been slow, lurching riffs and expansive fuzz, the bellowed vocals taking a back seat to the all-consuming low-end. Their nod is primal, and as Spacejumbofudge proves, that’s been the idea the whole time.

Man’s Ruin Records picked up the band for the 1999 release of their second album, Templeball, and did a reissue of Spacejumbofudge with Frank Kozik art and a partially revamped tracklist the next year. When that label folded, Sons of Otis issued their third album, Songs for Worship, via The Music Cartel on Sept. 11, 2001 — timing is everything — and were one of several acts to be picked up by Small Stone, in good company with Acid KingDozerNatas and (The Men of) Porn. Their fourth, X, followed in 2005, and 2009’s Exiled (review here) and 2012’s Seismic (review here) affirmed their reign among the most stoned of the stoners, guitarist Ken Baluke‘s branded Oxfuzz effects swirl making an impression wholly distinct from the rising tide of heaviness around them.

Some six albums earlier, it’s maybe not such a shocker that Spacejumbofudge is rawer than the likes of Seismic, but a lot of what would typify Sons of Otis‘ sound over the better part of the next two decades is right there on the first album, even if it’s not as jammed out. Baluke, bassist Frank Sargeant and drummer Ryan Aubin are reportedly no longer with Small Stone, but there’s nothing to necessarily indicate they’re done as a band. While it’s been three years already since Seismic was first issued, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find Sons of Otis rising again sooner or later with another massive wall of fuzz built up behind them. Here’s hoping, anyway.

Now, I don’t believe in fate or the tempting thereof, but last Friday, spiritually exhausted and physically injured, I had the gall to say this: “What happens next? What shitty misadventure awaits? I don’t know and I don’t really care.”

Once again, I don’t believe in tempting fate, but Friday evening I started getting reports that Ed Barnard of Doommantia had died, I put together a tribute to the guy and the reports turned out on Monday to be wrong — I’m glad he’s still alive, and I certainly felt like a jackass for saying otherwise — and in the interim, I got call Friday from my family in New Jersey that my 99-year-old grandmother was in the emergency room, in and out of lucidity and I should probably think of heading down.

It had been less than a week since I was last in New Jersey, and if you’re not from this part of the world, let me explain to you that it’s a minimum four-hour ride from where I live in Massachusetts. A not inconsiderable trip, despite the frequency with which I make it. I’m not 20 years old anymore. I get fucking tired. But it’s my grandmother who, again, is 99, so what am I going to do? Be like, “No, I’m beat and I can barely walk and I’m staying home?” Of course not.

Last Saturday morning, The Patient Mrs. and I hightailed it to Jersey, and I spent two nights at the hospital, Saturday and Sunday overnight, with about two hours of sleep between them while my grandmother, not recognizing me or my sister who also stayed, accused us of stealing from her and redoing her house — it was the hospital room — without her permission. It feels like a complete-enough review of the experience to say it sucked. Monday she went home and has been receiving in-home care since. The Patient Mrs. — who was brilliant and set up said in-home care and is wonderful and whom I’m so lucky to have in my life — and I were at her house, and grandma still didn’t know who I was. “Who do I have in my family that’s an editor and has a beard and hair like yours?” I could only point to myself.

What a shitter.

I slept as hard as I’ve ever slept in my adult life on Monday night, and Tuesday we came back to Massachusetts because The Patient Mrs. was — news to me as of the day before — flying to Austin, Texas, to visit a friend early on Wednesday. Probably better she didn’t tell me, to be honest, because it just would’ve been one more thing to worry about. In a welcome home fitting to my entire experience living in this area, I got a ticket en route to the airport in an empty (apart from the officer and I) speed-trap highway tunnel where the limit dropped to 35 miles an hour. Fucking perfect. I didn’t even answer the cop when he gave me the thing, just rolled up my window and proceeded on to terminal B. She comes back tomorrow, does The Patient Mrs., and I shit you not I haven’t left the house since I got back Wednesday afternoon except to get mail and take out and bring back in the recycling containers. I’m 33 years old. I’d blame the weather, which is shit forever, or the fact that I’m broke, but that’s not even it. I just don’t have anywhere to go. Unless, of course, you count New Jersey.

In Lord of the Rings, in one of the appendices it talks about how Arwen goes into the forest, I think at Cerin Amroth, and just sits there long enough that she becomes a tree. I feel like I’m about to become my couch. Like father, like son, but that’s a whole different story.

Not looking for sympathy on any of this, just trying to tell you what’s up and clear my head. A while ago I asked on Thee Facebooks about longer vs. shorter reviews and some guy said, “Sometimes I feel like I’m reading your diary. Less of that.” Ha.

Hey, seven posts today! Look at that. Have a great weekend. Smiley face.

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3 Responses to “Friday Full-Length: Sons of Otis, Spacejumbofudge

  1. Aron says:

    Don’t listen to Facebook dude – I like the weekly Friday afternoon life updates. It adds a bit of context to the reviews and the rest of your writing – which is very good.

    Anyway, sorry to hear about grandma, it’s tough to sit there in the hospital watching someone you care about struggle so badly. My wife and I had a particularly shitty 2014 that included a lot of that kind of agonizing hospital/hospice visit. It’s damn tough and it takes a lot out of a person.

    So no sympathy, but perhaps some empathy. Anyway, I dig the blog.


  2. AntBrown says:

    Bollocks to some guy on facebook! I like your Friday afternoon posts – this site is so perect, it’s just not true!

    Stay strong, doom on JJ!!


  3. Mike H says:

    I check in Friday evenings just for your weekly updates. I feel like I’m checking in with an old friend. Someone I care about. Don’t listen to that dude.

    You are The Dude.

    Just remember that.

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