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

Posted in Reviews on January 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

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”

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Yawning Man Announce North American Touring with Mondo Generator & Freedom Hawk

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

yawning man

Desert soundtrackers Yawning Man will hit the road right after New Year’s in order, presumably, to bring a bit of warmth to some of the harshest hours 2019 will present. The genre-shaping Californian outfit released The Revolt Against Tired Noises (review here) earlier this year, and it’s a record that has endured even as others have come and gone since, and typical of the band’s work, one expects it will continue to unfold sides of itself over a longer term than a mere matter of months. Recall this is a band who were practically legends before they had an album out. Still, in their 30-plus-year history, they haven’t ever been especially huge on touring, so even as they become a more cohesive studio outfit, they’re complementing that with a live incarnation. They were in Europe this past summer, and have already gotten a first East Coast stint under their collective belt. As far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier.

They’ll have Nick Oliveri and his Mondo Generator outfit along for the first stretch of dates, then pick up shortly thereafter with Virginian fuzzers Freedom Hawk, which is badass on multiple levels that you probably already know. If I’m not mistaken, it’s the longest stint Freedom Hawk will have done in the States as well.

Dates follow, as dutifully transcribed from the tour poster by me, for reasons of compulsion:

yawning man tour poster

Yawning Man US / Canada Tour Dates !!

Yawning Man on tour:
01.02 Phoenix AZ Rebel Lounge*
01.03 Albuquerque NM Sister Bar*
01.04 Dallas TX Gas Monkey
01.06 Austin TX Come and Take it Live*
01.07 Lafayette LA Freetown Boom Boom Room*
01.08 New Orleans LA Santos*
01.09 Nashville TN Little Harpeth Brewing*
01.10 Atlanta GA 529
01.12 Asheville NC 27 Club**
01.13 Charlottesville VA The Southern**
01.14 Richmond VA Richmond Music Hall**
01.15 Philadephia PA Kung Fu Necktie**
01.16 Cambridge MA Middle East Upstairs**
01.17 Brooklyn NY Saint Vitus**
01.18 Montreal QC Bar LeRitz**
01.19 Ottawa ON Mavericks**
01.20 Toronto ON Bovine Sex Club**
01.21 Detroit MI The Sanctuary**
01.23 Chicago IL Empty Bottle**
01.24 Kansas City MO Record Bar
01.25 Denver CO Hi Dive
01.26 Salt Lake City UT Loading Dock
01.27 Boise ID The Olympic
01.29 Vancouver BA Astoria
01.30 Seattle WA El Corazon
01.31 Portland OR High Water Mark
* w/ Mondo Generator
** w/ Freedom Hawk

YAWNING MAN IS
Gary Arce – Guitar
Mario Lalli – Bass
Bill Stinson – Drums

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https://yawningman.bandcamp.com
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Yawning Man, “Ghost Beach”

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John Garcia and the Band of Gold Post “Chicken Delight” Lyric Video; Playing Planet Desert Rock Weekend Nov. 29

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

john garcia and the band of gold

Later this month, John Garcia and the Band of Gold take the stage headlining the first night of the inaugural Planet Desert Rock Weekend. Put together by Vegas Rock Revolution, it’s an impeccably curated evening celebrating what’s a rare onstage US appearance for Garcia, with performances by Nick Oliveri, Luna Sol which features Hermano‘s Dave Angstrom, and Death in Pretty Wrapping, which has Arthur Seay also from Unida (and House of Broken Promises) on guitar. The idea is everyone kind of gets together and rocks out at Vinyl at the Hard Rock Cafe and Hotel in Vegas, joining Garcia onstage to play tracks from his past outfits and so on.

There’s also a whole weekend of insanity planned (info here), but no question that for US concertgoers, seeing Garcia these days isn’t something that happens all that often. Since Vista Chino went their separate ways, he’s focused heavily on Europe with acoustic tours and festival appearances, and fair enough given that market.

So far as he’s said, this will be his only US show for the upcoming John Garcia and the Band of Gold album.

That album, self-titled, is due out Jan. 4, 2019, via Napalm Records, and they’ve newly unveiled a lyric video — kind of standard procedure at this point — to introduce one of the tracks. Dubbed “Chicken Delight,” the song is not one of the several redux’ed from Garcia‘s last outing, which was 2017’s mostly-unplugged The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues (review here), but instead is all-new and thus far exclusive to this album. Though it’d work acoustic as well. Those curious as to how the reunion might sound between Garcia and producer Chris Goss, who once upon a time produced genre-defining LPs for Garcia‘s band Kyuss, go ahead and take note, because that’s what’s happening here.

A month-long stretch of European tour dates has been announced to follow shortly after the album’s release. You might recall that tour was initially supposed to happen this Fall but was rescheduled to allow for the recording to be done, because, well, let’s face it. If you’re going on tour for a month and you’re about to finish a new record, you probably want to be able to take it along with you. The Jan.-Feb. stint will allow for that.

Those dates as well as more info follow the clip here, courtesy of the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

John Garcia and the Band of Gold, “Chicken Delight” official lyric video

Desert Rock frontman extraordinaire, JOHN GARCIA, has just released”Chicken Delight”, the first single of the new album John Garcia And The Band Of Gold. Today the Kyuss legend unveils the official lyric video for the relaxed groover straight out of the desert!

“Chicken Delight”is the perfect beginning of your California desert trip that opens out to a new album that melts down the whole subgenre to the core! It’s the perfect mix of his trademarked voice and the groovy, laid back and dusty sound that lies within every chord that makes your mind fly away. Over the last almost three decades, JOHN GARCIA’s voice has set the standard for the sound of the California desert and “Chicken Delight” takes it one step further.

Pre-order “John Garcia And The Band Of Gold” here: http://smarturl.it/JGATBOG

Out January 4th

John Garcia And The Band Of Gold Live:
After having a meeting between his musical past and present, by playing on one stage with Nick Oliveri (ex-Kyuss), Dave Angstrom (ex-Hermano) and Arthur Seay (ex-Unida) on November 29 in Las Vegas, JOHN GARCIA will return to an extensive tour through Europe with his Band Of Gold:

Special Show w/ Nick Oliveri, Luna Sol, Death in Pretty Wrapping
29.11.18 US – Las Vegas / Vinyl

European Tour 2019
w/ Dead Quiet
23.01.19 FR – Paris / Le Trabendo
24.01.19 FR – Bordeaux / Le Krakatoa
25.01.19 ES – Madrid / Caracol
26.01.19 ES – Barcelona / Razzamatazz 2
28.01.19 FR – Lyon / Le Kao
29.01.19 CH – Zurich / Bogen F.
30.01.19 IT – Milan / Santeria Club
31.01.19 DE – Munich / Backstage Halle
02.02.19 AT – Graz / Explosiv
03.02.19 HU – Budapest / A38
04.02.19 CZ – Prague / Rock Café
05.02.19 DE – Nuremberg / Hirsch
07.02.19 DE – Jena / F-Haus
08.02.19 DE – Berlin / SO36
09.02.19 DK – Copenhagen / Loppen
10.02.19 NO – Oslo / John Dee
12.02.19 FI – Helsinki / Tavastia
14.02.19 SE – Stockholm / Debaser Strand
15.02.19 SE – Gothenburg / Sticky Fingers
16.02.19 DE – Hamburg / Gruenspan
17.02.19 DE – Cologne / Helios 37
19.02.19 BE – Leuven / Het Depot
20.02.19 DE – Aschaffenburg / Colos-Sal
21.02.19 DE – Essen / Turock
22.02.19 NL – Tilburg / 013
23.02.19 UK – London / O2 Academy Islington

John Garcia And The Band Of Gold are:
John Garcia – vocals
Ehren Groban – guitar
Mike Pygmie – bass
Greg Saenz – drums

John Garcia on Thee Facebooks

John Garcia on Instgram

Napalm Records webstore

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John Garcia and the Band of Gold Self-Titled LP Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

john garcia and the band of gold

With the Jan. 4 release of the self-titled debut/maybe swansong from John Garcia and the Band of Gold, the group’s principle namesake will have issued three solo albums more or less in evolving incarnations. 2014’s John Garcia (review here) was a plugged-in desert rocker credited to the man himself, while last year’s The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues (review here) brought Garcia together with guitarist Ehren Groban (War Drum), bassist Mike Pygmie (Mondo GeneratorYou Know Who) and drummer Greg Saenz (The DwarvesYou Know Who) and was mostly acoustic in its unfolding. John Garcia and the Band of Gold leans more toward the former, but features the latter band and also reunites Garcia with Kyuss producer Chris Goss (also of Masters of Reality) — who one recalls had some choice words when Garcia embarked on the partial Kyuss reunion with Vista Chino — sees reworkings of “Kylie,” “The Hollingsworth Session” and “Give Me 250ML” from the last record, turning the latter into a sequel to “Kentucky” from the last Hermano record, now 11 years old, and brings those familiar pieces together with a total 11 new tracks available to preorder now.

On Nov. 29, John Garcia and the Band of Gold make their only US appearance — maybe ever? — at Vinyl at the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas, headlining the first night of the Planet Desert Rock Weekend, and then they’re headed to Europe early in 2019. All dates and info follow here, courtesy of the PR wire:

john garcia and the band of gold self titled

New Album JOHN GARCIA AND THE BAND OF GOLD out January 4th 2019!

Pre-Order HERE!

JOHN GARCIA, the Kyuss legend returns with his next incarnation of Desert Rock, John Garcia And The Band Of Gold, out on Napalm Records! None other than ex-Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age producer Chris Goss gave this new groovy piece of dust its finishing touches. JOHN GARCIA takes the next step in his almost 30-year career by combining the strengths of his musical past with the achievements of modern times. It’s once again a distinctive JOHN GARCIA album!

JOHN GARCIA on the new album:
“After a year of heavy stress, starting my own studio, shutting it down, hiring and firing, the drama is finally over. Saved by surgeon Chris Goss, this record is finally done. It is unclear if I will ever be doing this again, so this is it. Here it is, proud and loud John Garcia and The Band of Gold record comes out January 4th with supporting tour thereafter. The Vegas jam is my only U.S. electric show and will prove to be something special. I thank my supporters, you keep me going – Big Love from the Garcia res!!”

You can Pre-Order John Garcia And The Band Of Gold HERE!

After starting the stoner rock movement by establishing Kyuss together with Josh Homme (Queens Of the Stone Age, Eagles Of Death Metal), Brant Bjork (ex-Fu Manchu), Nick Oliveri (Ex-Queens Of The Stone Age) in 1990, JOHN GARCIA became one of the most heard voices from the desert in Rock History. No doubt that he had massive impact on the desert rock movement by singing in bands like Hermano, Slo Burn, Unida and Vista Chino. Since his debut album as a solo artist in 2014 via Napalm Records, he has further established his very own trademarks.

JOHN GARCIA And The Band Of Gold live:

After having a meeting between his musical past and present, by playing on one stage with Nick Oliveri (ex-Kyuss), Dave Angstrom (ex-Hermano) and Arthur Seay (ex-Unida) on November 29 in Las Vegas, JOHN GARCIA will return to an extensive tour through Europe with his Band Of Gold:

Special Show w/ Nick Oliveri, Luna Sol, Death in Pretty Wrapping
11.29.18 US – Las Vegas / Vinyl

European Tour 2019
w/ Dead Quiet
23.01.19 FR – Paris / Le Trabendo
24.01.19 FR – Bordeaux / Le Krakatoa
25.01.19 ES – Madrid / Caracol
26.01.19 ES – Barcelona / Razzamatazz 2
28.01.19 FR – Lyon / Le Kao
29.01.19 CH – Zurich / Bogen F.
30.01.19 IT – Milan / Santeria Club
31.01.19 DE – Munich / Backstage Halle
02.02.19 AT – Graz / Explosiv
03.02.19 HU – Budapest / A38
04.02.19 CZ – Prague / Rock Café
05.02.19 DE – Nuremberg / Hirsch
07.02.19 DE – Jena / F-Haus
08.02.19 DE – Berlin / SO36
09.02.19 DK – Copenhagen / Loppen
10.02.19 NO – Oslo / John Dee
12.02.19 FI – Helsinki / Tavastia
14.02.19 SE – Stockholm / Debaser Strand
15.02.19 SE – Gothenburg / Sticky Fingers
16.02.19 DE – Hamburg / Gruenspan
17.02.19 DE – Cologne / Helios 37
19.02.19 BE – Leuven / Het Depot
20.02.19 DE – Aschaffenburg / Colos-Sal
21.02.19 DE – Essen / Turock
22.02.19 NL – Tilburg / 013
23.02.19 UK – London / O2 Academy Islington

John Garcia And The Band Of Gold are:
John Garcia – vocals
Ehren Groban – guitar
Mike Pygmie – bass
Greg Saenz – drums

https://www.facebook.com/JohnGarciaOfficial/
https://www.instagram.com/johngarciasolo/
https://shop.napalmrecords.com/

John Garcia, “Give Me 250ML” official lyric video

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Brant Bjork Posts “Chocolatize” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

brant bjork

Whoever keeps the records of these things, let the record state that when I started the very first episode of ‘The Obelisk Show’ on Gimme Radio, it was with this track. The opener from Brant Bjork‘s new album, Mankind Woman (review here), which was also premiered here over the summer, is a clarion to anyone who’d be so bold as to let a little funk into their heart, and frankly, we should all be so lucky to do precisely that. And of course the video keeps it loose, opening up with Bjork turning on the camera and sitting down next to his record player to check out the test pressing of Mankind Woman, only to pick up his guitar and play along to the song before he, as a full band on drums, bass and guitar, jams out the track in its entirety.

That’s a blast in itself, and of course it ends with him lighting up a joint and shutting off said camera after the song has ended, but there’s more going on in the video than just that. It’s loaded with easter eggs and references. To wit, in the opening shot, when Bjork is sitting in his badass retro living room — look at that lamp! — there are two piles of records in front of the cabinet, and facing out from them are the covers for Bob Dylan‘s 1965 album Bringing it all Back Home, on which the then-folk hero went electric, and the 1970 self-titled debut from Funkadelic, which aside from being one of the best albums ever released by anybody — period — relates to the song via the use of “chocolate,” as that same unit, as Parliament, would soon enough issue 1975’s Chocolate CityBjork might as well be recommending these to viewers, and with Hendrix showing up later on as well, one could hardly argue with his picks.

Note as well the Star Wars action figures in a display case, and the television in the living room where he’s playing bass that has the early Star Trek episode “Shore Leave” on wherein the crew of the Enterprise trips out on some planet’s atmosphere and all conjure various oddities in their mind, for Captain Kirk a certain Cadet Finnegan who used to beat him up at Starfleet Academy. It’s not there for long, but trust me, that’s the episode. Those are both cool inclusions, but perhaps the best of all is the Dylan reference, which continues into the video itself as the song makes its way to the chorus, the trippy visuals of the verse cut out and we see Bjork standing outside switching hats with words from the lyrics on them: “chocolatize,” “right on,” etc. This of course is a nod to Dylan‘s iconic promo video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” much referenced for his holding up signs with the words to the song on them. It’s a smart twist and fits the vibe of the track well. He ends with “love” and “dig.,” respectively. Badass.

One might also spot an open gatefold Black Sabbath LP on a shelf and I’m sure there are numerous others to be found. Either way, this is one of the best songs I’ve heard this year — it’s on that list, to be sure — and the more opportunities to dig into it, the better.

So here’s one. Enjoy:

Brant Bjork, “Chocolatize” official video

After the successful release of his critically acclaimed, thirteenth solo album “Mankind Woman”, BRANT BJORK is now premiering a brand new music video for the track “Chocolatize”. Welcome to Brant’s living room, dive with him into the desert and the psychedelic grooves of his brand new album, your trip starts below!

With an unprecedented sense of groove – the one and only Brant Bjork Groove – “Mankind Woman” is BRANT BJORK’s first ever release on European independent powerhouse Heavy Psych Sounds Records. Already described as his catchiest to date, this 11-track gem presents the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist’s take on 60s and 70s music era. Joined by long-time friend and Low Desert Punk musician Bubba Dupree, Brant Bjork blends the finest of his classic rock, rhythm’n’blues and funk influences to craft a groovy, hook-laden record that adds to a prolific and always heat-warming collection of records from the legendary desert rocker.

Once again, Brant Bjork makes here a record that reminds the listener that it was the ingredients of jazz, blues and funk that makes rock music taste so good.

Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman (2018)

Brant Bjork on Thee Facebooks

Brant Bjork on Instagram

Brant Bjork on Twitter

Brant Bjork website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

 

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Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman: Swagger and Soul

Posted in Reviews on September 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

brant bjork mankind woman

Strip it down. The central mission of Brant Bjork‘s 12th studio album seems to have been to get back to basics, and that means groove. There’s ultra-funk that runs deep throughout Mankind Woman, and in songs like “Chocolatize” and “Somebody,” the godfather of desert rock crafts his most intimate-sounding release in at least a decade, if not longer. It’s a collection informed by the soulful aspects of records like 1999’s mellow-heavy desert classic Jalamanta (discussed herealso here) and particularly 2002’s Brant Bjork and the Operators, which was made under similar circumstances of close collaboration.

In this case, Bjork worked together with guitarist Bubba DuPree (ex-Void, also of Bjork‘s backing group, The Low Desert Punk Band) to write the material and bringing in recurring guest vocalist Sean Wheeler to take lead vocal spots on side B cuts “Pretty Hairy” and closer “Nation of Indica,” former Kyuss/Vista Chino bandmate Nick Oliveri and Armand Secco Sabal (who’s toured with Al di Meola) for bass spots. The result is an 11-track/38-minute easy-flowing LP that discards much of the aggressive edge of 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here) and 2016’s Tao of the Devil (review here) — Bjork‘s two studio full-lengths through Napalm Records, which also issued the live outing, Europe ’16 (review here), last year — in favor of material that is smoother and more laid back.

Sure, the title-track sleeks its way into a Deep Purple (sans organ) boogie in its second half and the fittingly-enough centerpiece “Swagger and Sway” has some element of challenge in the lyrics, “Try to do something about it/I dare you,” but the prevailing vibe on Mankind Woman is more indebted to classic soul and R&B, melded of course with the signature desert rock style that Bjork has made his own over the better part of the last 20 years. Cuts like the shuffling “Lazy Wizards” and “Pisces” early in the tracklisting are straightforward in their style — the latter with a particularly resonant hook — and follow the opener “Chocolatize” (premiered here) in finding a place where something can be heavy and soothing at the same time, empty of pretense but more than a simple run through the motions of Bjork‘s modus.

As Bjork leaves Napalm behind for Italian imprint Heavy Psych Sounds, it’s easy to read Mankind Woman as the beginning of a new era for his work, and if that’s the case, then so be it. Even Wheeler brings the soul to “Pretty Hairy,” as opposed to the sort of punker spoken declarations of “Nation of Indica” and while funk is ever-present in Bjork‘s style, to hear him directly engage it as he does on “Chocolatize,” “Mankind Woman” itself and “Somebody” is a refreshing readjustment of the balance. It’s the ultimate cliché to say an opener ‘sets the tone’ for the rest of the album, but the chorus, “It’s time to chocolatize our thing/Right on,” seems to be as much a statement of purpose for the collection as a whole as it is a standout hook on its own, and Mankind Woman indeed remains affected by its energy and deceptively complex arrangement of layers.

B-funk? D-funk (for desert)? Either way, as “Lazy Wizards” subsequently unfolds its righteously subdued groove, the impression of “Chocolatize” before it holds firm and makes an underpinning for just about everything that follows, even as “Charlie Gin” dips into garage rock, the later “Brand New Old Times” seems to take on no-frills early-Beatles-gone-fuzz-R&B hookmaking, and the penultimate “1968” unfurls itself with an uptempo swing that would’ve been at home on a second Vista Chino effort, with Bjork himself donning the John Garcia mantle in his vocal approach.

brant bjork

Mankind Woman brings no shortage of sonic variety in moving from track to track, but it’s the overarching fluidity that makes it work so well as a front-to-back listen, the steady flow of the production (helmed by Dupree as well as Yosef Sanborn, who engineered and mixed) helping to unite individualized pieces across the whole work in classic-album form. Not that a record with a song called “1968” on it is exactly missing ties to that era that saw the birth of heavy in rock and roll, but clearly Mankind Woman is speaking to that moment in more than just that one especially upfront manner.

And no complaints for that. With the exception of “Brand New Old Times” — which is the shortest cut included at 2:04 — the songs are by and large longer on side B, with “Somebody” and “Nation of Indica” tapping into the kind of jammy feel that populated some of the longer-form material on other recent long-players, but is quicker in doing so, speaking to the general reining in that seems to be happening throughout Mankind Woman as Bjork effectively resets his methodology. Likely some of it is writing alongside DuPree, but even if Bjork‘s doing so is a one-off rather than indicative of a new direction to be developed over future works, then the point still stands.

Clearly it was time for something different coming off Tao of the Devil, and that’s manifest in these tracks whatever familiar elements they might otherwise contain. For longtime Brant Bjork fans, Mankind Woman should feel like a gift. It taps into a spirit that fell by the wayside as Bjork embraced wider-scale touring — that said, he’s hitting Europe again to support this release — and a more full-band approach, and it does so without moving backwards creatively. It refuses to compromise its soul or dull-down its funkified roll, and it shows Bjork squarely in command of his style, songwriting and performance. Actually, I take that back. There’s nothing square about it.

Brant Bjork‘s legacy doesn’t — or shouldn’t — need to be recounted. From his days drumming and writing in Kyuss to joining Fu Manchu, to the one-off with Ché en route to establishing himself as a solo artist and releasing albums of diverse sound and consistent quality, he’s been nothing short of essential to the process of shaping desert rock into the multinational phenomenon it is today. Mankind Woman is true to this pedigree, but like each of Bjork‘s offerings, it has a personality unto itself and speaks to the ongoing creative growth of an absolute master of the form. Hearing it is only going to make your day better.

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Brant Bjork, Tres Dias & Local Angel: Easing In

Posted in Reviews on August 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

brant bjork tres dias

When Heavy Psych Sounds announced it had signed Brant Bjork, it was unquestionably good news. With California desert precedent success on the label from Nick Oliveri, Yawning Man and Fatso Jetson, it made sense that after Bjork wrapped the three-album deal with Napalm Records that resulted in 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here), 2016’s Tao of the Devil (review here) and 2017’s live album, Europe ’16 (review here), he too would sign on with the emergent Italian imprint. Even better was word that his back catalog from 1999 through 2010 would be reissued by his new label, digitally as well as physically on CD and limited vinyl. Bjork was maddeningly productive during those years, releasing under his own name as well as Brant Bjork and the Operators and Brant Bjork and the Bros, and as he was mostly self-releasing under the banners of Duna Records or Low Desert Punk Records, the albums often went overlooked by a wider audience.

Now, with several years of hard touring in Europe and the US behind him, the time only seems right to get these albums back out to a public that might’ve missed them the first time out. And it’s a fascinating choice to start with late-2006’s Tres Dias and 2004’s Local Angel (also discussed here) since they are, without a doubt, the two most intimate albums Bjork produced during that 11-year/nine-album stretch. In addition to this, both represented a marked shift in approach when they arrived. For Local Angel, it came after the initial few solo outings from the former Fu Manchu and Kyuss drummer, and was still often electric in its foundation, but even more mellow than 2003’s Keep Your Cool, its direct predecessor. It remains a quiet and melody-centered collection of 10 tracks that are less about aggression or even heft than about an easy vibe and sheer aural chill.

Likewise, Tres Dias, which actually begins the Heavy Psych Sounds series, is a mostly-acoustic solo record that landed smack in the middle of the Brant Bjork and the Bros era. The band debuted in 2005 with the double-CD Saved by Magic and would follow that up with 2007’s Somera Sól. Tres Dias departed from The Bros and though it features some older material and would share the songs “Love is Revolution,” “Chinarosa” and “The Native Tongue” with the subsequent offering, the sonic left turn in Tres Dias is immediately palpable. One recalls that when it was first released, Bjork noted the spirit he wanted to capture was taking his guitar to a park and playing under a tree to nobody in particular, just singing songs to enjoy them. That remains a striking image, and the album remains a snapshot of the idea made manifest.

With an anchor hook in the classic protest song “Love is Revolution,” the eight-song Tres Dias imagines a desert folk music that’s Bjork makes his own by putting his vocals at the center with his acoustic and adding flourish in electric wah atmosphere as heard on “Chinarosa.” It was a dark time politically when the songs were written — 2006 seemed to be an abyss of war that would never end; and hey! it didn’t — and in addition to “Love is Revolution,” “Video,” which originally appeared on Keep Your Cool as “Gonna Make the Scene” and even the opener, a revisit of “Too Many Chiefs” from Bjork‘s 1999 Man’s Ruin Records solo debut, Jalamanta (discussed herealso here), would seem to find a different social context for the revisit. The most elaborate arrangement would seem to be for “The Native Tongue,” which has subdued electric guitar and percussion, but it’s no less fluid than anything that surrounds and whether it’s the insistent strum of Saved by Magic‘s “The Messengers” or the riffy groove of “Right Time,” which would become the title-track of 2008’s Punk Rock GuiltTres Dias stripped away everything but the songwriting and performance and allowed Bjork‘s work to shine in a way it never had before.

Brant Bjork Local Angel

Would it exist without the precedent of Local Angel? I don’t know. I also don’t know if it’s the label or Bjork himself picking the order in which the reissues arrive in this series, but certainly with these two back-to-back, it’s easy enough to read the narrative of succession in reverse, though it’s just as likely Tres Dias into Local Angel is a way of easing into the more active material in Bjork‘s 1999-2010 discography. I won’t speculate as to the thought behind it. More importantly, the revisit of Local Angel, along with a marked redux of the artwork, once more highlights the man himself as a songwriter. “Beautiful Powers,” “Hippie,” “Chico” and “The Feelin'” make for a striking opening salvo with the even-funkier “Bliss Ave.” rounding out side A. While “plugged” and drummed, the tracks are subtle in their execution, bringing an organic sensibility that stands out to this day from everything else Bjork has done. Specifically in the context of these reissues, it can be read as a midpoint between other works and Tres Dias, but the truth is that Local Angel stands alone.

The original CD had bonus track covers of “Hey Joe” and The Ramones‘ “I Want You Around” that seem to have disappeared, but the smooth vibes continue on side B with “Fly to Haiti,” the Thin Lizzy-vibing “You’re Alright,” which is also arguably the most active cut on the album, the relatively minimal “Spanish Tiles,” “She’s Only Tryin'” which gives “You’re Alright” a run for its money, and closer “The Good Fight,” which more than earns the rhythmic handclaps in its second half. Even in its most uptempo or full-band-sounding material, Local Angel is gloriously understated. I’ve always found it to be one of Bjork‘s easiest listens and, frankly, have never stopped going back to it periodically in the 14 years since its release. I recognize that doesn’t exactly make me impartial when it comes to assessing the reissue, but if the point is to get these albums back out to people who might’ve missed them or not been around when they landed the first time, Local Angel has definitely more than earned at least that additional look.

One could say the same of Tres Dias and of the rest of Bjork‘s work during this period as well, and not to put too fine a point on it, but as other albums continue to resurface, “one” — me, particularly — probably will. The chance to revisit Brant Bjork‘s solo works is an opportunity not only to hear him shape his own sound, but to hear him help shape desert rock as well. I won’t discount his contributions to the style in Kyuss or anything else he’s done along the way, whether it’s Fu ManchuChéVista Chino, etc., but if you want to know how he got to be the godfather of desert rock that he is, it was this period when it happened, and these reissues are a chance for longtime and recent fans to give those moments their long-due appreciation.

Brant Bjork, Tres Dias (2006/2018)

Brant Bjork, Local Angel (2004/2018)

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John Garcia Postpones European Tour to 2019

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

john garcia and the band of gold

Well, they’ll miss this year’s Fall festival season, but something tells me the month-long stint rescheduled for Jan.-Feb. 2019 won’t be the last time John Garcia and the Band of Gold tour Europe in support of their impending new album. I’m curious as to whether or not Garcia‘s new outfit will release that album via Napalm Records or through another outlet. Garcia‘s Kyuss/Vista Chino bandmate Brant Bjork and his Low Desert Punk Band recently finished their three-album deal, and I think this would make three releases for Garcia on the same label behind last year’s The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues (review here) and his 2014 self-titled solo debut (review here), so it would make sense. But the nature of plans is to change, as evidenced by the fact that the tour’s been rescheduled in the first place, so who knows?

Not me, in any case. But through ups and downs with the aforementioned Kyuss and Vista Chino, as well as his sundry other outfits Slo BurnUnida and HermanoGarcia‘s proven he’s nothing if not a survivor. I look forward to hearing John Garcia and the Band of Gold‘s debut LP, however and whenever it might arrive.

Rescheduled tour dates follow here, as hoisted from thee social medias:

john garcia and the band of gold tour poster

JOHN GARCIA & THE BAND OF GOLD reschedule all European headline shows to 2019. The performances at Desertfest, Up In Smoke and Into The Void are cancelled. Dates in Zürich (CH), Gothenburg (SE), Leuven (BE) and Tilburg (NL) were added to the touring schedule.

JOHN GARCIA states:
“Although the Ocotober / November has been postponed, I’m pleased to announce the release of the new dates and shows in January and February of 2019. It was essential for the health of my new record which will be out this fall that we postponed the tour. I will never give up on my band, my team and the love of music for a lack luster record. Myself and my Band of Gold have big plans for 2019 and it all starts with this tour. Stoked and shaka till death!!”

All purchased tickets remain valid for the re-scheduled dates. If anyone can’t make it to the new dates, please contact your place of purchase.

John Garcia and the Band of Gold tour dates:
01.23 Paris FR Le Trabendo
01.24 Bordeaux FR Le Krakatoa
01.25 Madrid ES Caracol
01.26 Barcelona ES Razzamatazz 2
01.28 Lyon FR Le Kao
01.29 Zurich CH Bogen F.
01.30 Milan IT Santeria Club
01.31 Munich DE Backstage Halle
02.02 Graz AT Explosiv
02.03 Budapest HU A38
02.04 Prague CZ Rock Cafe
02.05 Nurnberg DE Hirsch
02.07 Jena DE F-Haus
02.08 Berlin DE SO36
02.09 Copenhagan DK Loppen
02.10 Oslo NO John Dee
02.12 Helsinki FI Tavastia
02.14 Stockholm SE Debaser Strand
02.15 Gothenburg SE Sticky Fingers
02.16 Hamburg DE Gruenspan
02.17 Cologne DE Helios 36
02.19 Leuven BE Het Depot
02.20 Aschaffenburg DE Colos-Sal
02.21 Essen DE Turock
02.22 Tilburg NL 013
02.23 London UK 02 Academy Islington

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John Garcia, “Kylie” official video

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