Geezer & Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One: Whistlers and Prophets

borracho geezer second coming of heavy chapter one

One might quibble with the title. I’m not sure the current crop of bands having made the rounds for the last half-decade or thereabouts constitute The Second Coming of Heavy, as the name of Ripple Music‘s recently undertaken series of limited vinyl splits scouring the underground would posit. If you consider ’70s heavy rock of the psychedelic and post-psychedelic era, and the ’90s boom in stoner, desert, doom and other forms of heavy, I’d say we’re at least in the third coming, if not the third-point-five behind the underappreciated pre-social media acts of the ’00s, though I’ll readily admit that sounds less Biblical, would suck for marketing, and is a nerd’s gripe. Second it is.

Released in July, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One pairs New York heavy psych blues rockers Geezer and Washington D.C. riff rollers Borracho on either side of a limited-to-300-copies-and-gone 12″ with cover art from Ghosttown Graphic Art — future installments will reportedly link together to form a 10-part masterwork by Ghosttown‘s Joseph Rudell and Carrie Olaje — that, in addition to representing the beginning of a considerable project on the part of Ripple gives a handy update of where both Geezer and Borracho are at coming off of successful prior outings. The NY and D.C. trios offer up four and three tracks, respectively, that find each band delving further into its particular take on the titular heavy, whether that’s Geezer‘s Pat Harrington breaking out his slide on the swaying jam “Meth Neck” or Borracho refining their workingman’s fuzz on “Shark Tank.”

In addition to falling mostly under the same stylistic umbrella — at least as far as generic descriptive phrases like “heavy bands” go — most of what Geezer and Borracho have in common is position. Geezer‘s second full-length, 2014’s Gage (review here), pushed them well beyond their Electrically Recorded Handmade Heavy Blues debut, despite arriving just a year later, and likewise, Borracho‘s impressive 2013 outing, Oculus (review here), was their second and marked even more of a shift for the band as they moved from a four-piece to their current incarnation as a trio.

Both groups have put out teasers since — Geezer‘s Live! Full Tilt Boogie tape (review here) in 2014 and “Long Dull Knife” single in 2015; Borracho‘s splits with Cortez (review here) in 2014 and Eggnogg (review here) in 2015 — but The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One marks the most substantial studio offering from them since their last LPs, and accordingly, both show marked progression from where they were last time out. Geezer take oldschool command of their side immediately with “Tonight,” a written-for-the-stage salvo that not only ambitiously calls out dancing ladies but teases further, “You never know who you’re gonna meet at a rock show.” True enough. Harrington as a vocalist makes a signature of his whiskey-throated blueser scratch, but “Tonight” isn’t without an underlying melody, even though it’s when he, bassist Freddy Villano (since replaced by Richie Touseull) and drummer Chris Turco lock in a quick jam in the bridge, hypnotic despite being a brief trip outward before returning to the next chorus to finish on the line, “We’re gonna have a good time tonight.”

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It’s a sentiment that the languid churn of eight-minute side A closer “So Tired” soon enough echoes: “Hey now, won’t you come home with me?/We’ll have a get-down, yeah/We’ll have a good time.” If a “good time” is what Geezer are chasing, their portion of the split makes a solid case for their having found it. “The Whistler” rumbles and slides and grooves with a smoothness that does nothing to undercut its raw edge, and the aforementioned “Meth Neck” puts them right in what has become their element as Harrington (successfully) pushes his limits vocally and they finish laughing en route to the spaceout-worthy “So Tired,” which sets a high standard for tone for Borracho‘s three side B inclusions, “Fight the Prophets,” “Superego” and the already noted “Shark Tank.” Fortunately, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Steve Fisher, bassist Tim Martin and drummer Mario Trubiano are well up to that task.

The first thing you hear on “Fight the Prophets?” Cowbell. It should be taken as a sign of how little interest Borracho ultimately have in not getting right to the point. At seven, seven and six minutes, their songs are by and large longer than Geezer‘s (“So Tired” notwithstanding), but while repetition remains a focus in Borracho‘s sound, it’s not as if their tracks are spending all that time going nowhere. They don’t have the same interest in psychedelic flavoring, but between the bounce in the memorable chorus of “Fight the Prophets” to the ethereal leads overlaid on the beginning of “Shark Tank,” there’s a firm sense of atmosphere, even if their approach overall is grounded in heavy rock traditionalism.

Its hook makes “Fight the Prophets” a standout of the three Borracho inclusions, but the insistent rhythm, Martin‘s push of bass on “Superego” is not to be overlooked. As Trubiano tosses off fills to mark out the transitions in nod and Fisher covers new ground vocally in moving slightly from bottom-of-the-mouth Hetfieldery to a bolder and more individualized shout, the low end holds together a midsection of layered soloing and shoulders the heft that follows fluidly so that as they get back to the central boogie to round out, the moves preceding not only make sense but are natural and skillfully turned. Borracho have been and may always be heavy rock for heavy rockers, but they’ve continued to grow as songwriters and expand their palette, and “Shark Tank” offers final proof of that, its extended, damn-near-prog intro giving way to a punkish riotousness that sees Fisher summing up the attitude of the song as a whole when he says, “I had enough of this shit, so I’m movin’ on” in a snarl of due defiance as the last line.

That transition from the intro to the verse/chorus is key, since it’s in bringing two generally-opposing styles together that “Shark Tank”‘s ultimate success lies, and the fact that they do it without blinking lets the listener understand how far Borracho have really come in the last couple years. More even than a basic underlying tonal weight, it’s that sense of progress that positions Geezer and Borracho so well as complements on The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One, and wherever Ripple‘s series winds up taking them sound-wise, if it keeps its eyes and ears geared toward not just celebrating heavy rock, but celebrating those acts committed to moving the style forward and bringing something new to it — Chapter Two has been announced with Supervoid and Red Desert taking part — then it can’t be anything but a success in the end. Its first installment certainly is, however one might be inclined to argue numbers.

Geezer and Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One (2015)

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2 Responses to “Geezer & Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One: Whistlers and Prophets”

  1. diana kelly says:

    I am glad to see all the hours of hard work, are being appreciated, because you are also a very talented artist! I still wear my borracho t-shirt proudly.. love Tim’s mother-in-law.

  2. […] “More even than a basic underlying tonal weight, it’s that sense of progress that positions Geezer and Borracho so well as complements on The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One, and wherever Ripple‘s series winds up taking them sound-wise, if it keeps its eyes and ears geared toward not just celebrating heavy rock, but celebrating those acts committed to moving the style forward and bringing something new to it, then it can’t be anything but a success in the end. Its first installment certainly is.” (December 15, 2015. Read the full review) […]

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