John Garcia and the Band of Gold, John Garcia and the Band of Gold: Kentucky and Beyond

john garcia and the band of gold self titled

The 2014 self-titled solo debut from John Garcia (review here) was at least 15 years in the making. He followed it in 2017 with the mostly acoustic The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues (review here), and with the self-titled LP from John Garcia and the Band of Gold, he completes a cycle of three records in five years that he has already hinted will mark his last run. That in itself gives the 11-song/40-minute John Garcia and the Band of Gold a different context, but it’s also worth noting that as he’s made his way through these offerings — the latest of which would presumably complete a three-album deal with Napalm Records — he’s also presented a different side of himself each time out. True, the first and third LPs share plenty of aesthetic commonalities, but Garcia stepping into more of a bandleader role with The Band of Gold behind him comprised of guitarist Ehren Groban (War Drum), bassist Mike Pygmie (Mondo GeneratorYou Know Who) and drummer Greg Saenz (The DwarvesYou Know Who) is a distinguishing factor.

Much has been made as well of the involvement of producer Chris Goss, the frontman of Masters of Reality who once upon a time helmed the Kyuss recordings that would help solidify desert rock in the mid-’90s. That’s not a minor consideration, and if there’s an effect of Goss‘ contributions here — which, as I understand it, came after the basic tracks were recorded — perhaps it can be heard in the extra heft of a track like the rushing “Popcorn (Hit Me When You Can)” or the low-end push behind Garcia‘s crooning in the quieter parts of second cut “Jim’s Whiskers” earlier on. That’s speculation, but even the association between the two parties should be a draw for fans, who might also note the similarity in cover art between John Garcia and the Band of Gold and Vista Chino‘s 2013 outing, Peace (review here; discussed here), both done in a graffiti-on-concrete style. If there’s an intended relationship between those two LPs, I don’t know, but in addition to having appeared on The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues as “Give Me 250ml,” “Kentucky II” would seem to be a sequel in title to “Kentucky” from Hermano‘s 2007 full-length, …Into the Exam Room. One way or another, there is plenty throughout John Garcia and the Band of Gold for longtime fans to dig into.

“Kentucky II” is one of three songs shared between the last album and this one, actually, with “Kylie,” on that showing up as the penultimate “Cheyletiella” on this and “The Hollingsworth Session” revamped in fully-plugged fashion as “Don’t Even Think About It.” There’s something to be said for the continuity tying the two releases together, but highlights of John Garcia and the Band of Gold like “My Everything” and “Lillianna” are both new and help comprise the central impression of the tracklist as a whole, which is fresh in performance and cognizant of the desert it’s inhabiting, whether it’s through the introductory spaciousness that rolls out in “Space Vato” before that 2:44 instrumental kicks into higher gear and moves quickly into the bouncing groove of “Jim’s Whiskers,” or “Softer Side,” which finds Garcia singing quietly over a wide landscape of psychedelic guitar somewhat reminiscent of his work alongside Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce in Zun.

john garcia and the band of gold

His voice — naturally a central feature on an album that bears his name — has always been well suited to that ultra-laid back vibe, but neither can one take away from the power in his delivery of “My Everything” or the successful middle ground built up in “Chicken Delight,” a sense of tension coming to a head that the swinging “Kentucky II” pays off in its righteous and familiar shuffle. “Popcorn (Hit Me When You Can)” arguably provides the hardest thrust of John Garcia and the Band of Gold, but “Apache Junction,” which immediately follows, is both the heaviest and the most intriguing as regards arrangement, with guitars echoing out late after slamming out a central riff that’s replete with sonic detailing, bass chugging away beneath effects-laced background vocal layers between lyric lines, and the balance of the mix such that Garcia‘s voice is given an opportunity to cut through the tonal presence surrounding, something that he’s been doing in oft-imitated fashion for over two decades. Unsurprisingly, he nails it.

So will John Garcia and the Band of Gold really be his last record? Yeah, probably not. Even if it’s his last “solo” album for some time, he’s proven restless enough in the past that it’s easy to think maybe he’d work again with Dave Angstrom in Hermano or follow-up on the several reunion gigs Slo Burn did in 2017 with more there. Of the litany of projects he’s been involved in throughout his career, new material would be welcome from just about any of them — which isn’t to mention the perpetually-unfinished business with Unida, a band once stifled by contract woes from releasing what would’ve been their breakthrough album. If John Garcia is going to run out the thread on tour for this release and call it a career, though, what a career to call it. It probably doesn’t help pay the mortgage, but the guy’s legitimately a legend who’s influence has thus far spanned two generations, and John Garcia and the Band of Gold finds him in top form, arguably in better control of his craft than he was when Vista Chino made Peace for the intervening years of writing, touring and singing.

If it’s how he wants to go out, he certainly doesn’t owe anyone anything. But the question, ultimately, is a distraction, and a negative one if it takes anything away from appreciating John Garcia and the Band of Gold on its own level. Among the most crucial statements Garcia makes with the third LP under his name comes from that change in identity. He’s still searching. He’s still trying to find just that right place to inhabit that’s not only his own, but as much about the future as about his storied past. If fronting John Garcia and the Band of Gold is what lets him do that, fine. It worked for his one-time bandmate Brant Bjork for a while when he led Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, also on Napalm Records. And if John Garcia and the Band of Gold does make that happen, it’s even less likely this self-titled will be their last outing. But, just like how at any second his voice might punch the listener upside the head with belted-out desert grit, his future is wholly unpredictable.

John Garcia, “My Everything”

John Garcia on Thee Facebooks

John Garcia on Twitter

Napalm Records webstore

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply