A lot can happen to a band in four years. It can form, it can break up, it can lose members, gain members, release albums, tour – just about anything really. In the case of Polish rockers Elvis Deluxe, what they did in the four years since making their debut with the full-length Lazy is undertake a massive stylistic growth that now shows itself on Favourite State of Mind (Harmony Records), their second album. Where Lazy was charming if generic stoner rock, Favourite State of Mind finds the Warsaw outfit exploring a host of influences while also expanding on some of the ideas from last time. Stylized punk, heavy psychedelia, driving rock and even a bit of hardcore all show up across Favourite State of Mind’s 12 tracks, and the record is genuinely surprising in terms of how well it flows and how coherent and confident the band sounds. With the diverse vocals of bassist Ziemba, a range of atmospheres is cast and Elvis Deluxe feel just as much at home in one as in another, and as a result, the album is one that not only warrants repeat listens, but utterly flourishes in them.
The aptly-titled “Intro” is instrumental guitar strummed by drummer Miko, and it sets the stage for a lot of Favourite State of Mind. Soft ringing notes are soon swallowed in a mass of feedback, and the transition from that song into “Let Yourself Free” is just jarring enough to make you look back at it. Ziemba adapts his vocals to the more punkish material on the record the way Queens of the Stone Age might have switched between Josh Homme’s melodic singing and Nick Oliveri’s rougher edge — essentially doing the work of both of them, and doing it well – and “Let Yourself Free” finds its strongest statement in the intricate layering of both the guitars of Mechu (since out of the band and replaced by Bert Trust of Castor Fiber) and Bolek and Ziemba’s bass and vocals. The bassline to “Let Yourself Free” isn’t really a focal point, but almost immediately on “Out all Night,” it’s Ziemba providing the song’s sway and swagger, the guitars layering a memorable lead over the chorus with Cieju’s effective organ work. Already, roughly six minutes into Favourite State of Mind, it’s clear Elvis Deluxe are a completely different band than they were four years ago. They’ve grown out of the trappings of their genre and into something more individual and altogether more engaging. “Out all Night” uses fuzz distortion but by no means relies on it, and like the album as a whole, gets a boost from the natural-sounding production.
Their momentum continues through the catchy, more straightforward riff rocking “Fade Away,” where Ziemba backs himself through a call and response chorus that’s one of the strongest on Favourite State of Mind. “Fade Away” is the first of several tracks to feature guest guitarist Kazan, and as Ziemba affects a falsetto bridge leading into the last chorus, the heavier crunch of the track feels all the more appropriate moving into the intro of “This Time,” which sounds not so much borrowed from Kyuss’ “100 Degrees” as built on top of it. The tonality and some of the rhythm is the same, but Miko takes a different approach from Brant Bjork on the drums and the song soon turns the riff on its head. Ziemba takes a more passive approach vocally, riding the song’s formidable groove and allowing the music more space to breathe than on “Fade Away” or any of the cuts preceding. In terms of the structure of Favourite State of Mind, this is the moment in the classic live show where the band has already opened strong and work to shift – not dip – the progression. They keep that all-in-one-room feel alive (I don’t know if that’s how they actually recorded, but one can almost hear the drum sounds bouncing off a high ceiling), and as “This Time” transitions into “Out There,” it’s clear the track was positioned not just to play off the energy of the opening trio that followed “Intro,” but also to set the stage for the more psychedelic side of Elvis Deluxe.