I’m not sure if I’m going to make “Should’ve Been Sooner” reviews a series or not, but I’m backed up enough on records that I probably could. Either way, after Demon Eye yesterday, it seemed only fitting to follow-up with another long-standing pile dweller, so here goes:
Arizona heavy rock four-piece Powered Wig Machine have the fuzz, they have the riffs, they have the groove, and yet there’s something about them that still seems to be working against expectation. At least the expected expectation. I’ll explain. The Sierra Vista natives make a self-recorded, self-released debut with Supa-Collider, and while its methods are familiar enough — a Clutch-style sway in closing nod-maker “Brain of Hank Pym” and a classic stoner rock toss-off lyric in “Wizard of Orgy” — for actually being near desert if not in it (Sierra Vista seems to be dry, but a mountain town), their sound is much more derived from barroom blues than laid-back Yawning Man-style jams. Supa-Collider is a quick listen at a thoroughly unpretentious seven tracks/33 minutes, the band — guitarist/vocalist Wayne Rudell, guitarist/organist/engineer Brian Gold, guitarist Dusty Hinkle, bassist/backing vocalist Joseph Rudell and drummer Daniel Graves – starting off with a showing of classic heavy rock influence in “At the Helm of Hades,” which reminds of some of the grooves Deep Purple was apt to nestle into at their peak, with Gold‘s organ moving alongside his and Wayne‘s guitars and the bluesy vocals overtop. While it’s among the most resonant of them, “At the Helm of Hades” is hardly all Supa-Collider has to offer in terms of hooks, and both the shorter, bouncing “Led Masquerade” and subsequent “Here Come the Freaks” find their moments of distinction, the latter with a shuffle in its midsection that opens up to bigger grooving toward the finish as Graves gives his crash cymbals what for before stepping back into the start-stop progression of the verse.
I’d call the straightforward, un-Kyuss-ness of Supa-Collider jarring if Powered Wig Machine weren’t so solid in their performance and if the grooves weren’t so inviting. These aren’t dudes looking to change the world, or even to fix what isn’t broken about their genre, but neither should the quality of their output be written off nor should they be considered entirely unoriginal. Wayne comes across as an able frontman and vocalist, and the interplay throughout of guitar and organ — the latter appearing here and there in a flourish, then gone to make way for a solo or some other part — gives a sense of character and arrangement to these songs beyond what would seem to be the standard, “Led Masquerade” jamming itself to a finish as a lead-in for the starts and stops of “Here Come the Freaks,” the fuzz of which is all the beefier for the complement of keys. “Wizard of Orgy” follows, its “time-traveling pervert” chorus serving notice to anyone who might’ve through Powered Wig Machine were in danger of taking themselves too seriously, and “Mother Rocker” and the title-track deliver a one-two punch of heaviness — the latter is probably the band’s most singularly Clutch-derived groove — before the 6:18 “Brain of Hank Pym” rides in like a bluesy cavalry, putting the guitars even more in the lead as the vocals follow along, and encouraging the listener to fall in and do likewise. It’s the brain of Hank Pym — aka Ant-Man — as opposed to the body of John Wilkes Booth, at least going by the construction of the chorus, but as they’ve done throughout, Powered Wig Machine bring a spin of their own to established stylistic parameters. Keeping in mind that Supa-Collider is their debut even though they’ve been around since 2005/2006, it’s hard to ask more of the album than it delivers.
And Supa-Collider is all the more encouraging since not only is it a capable execution, but it’s self-made. Tony Reed mastered, but Gold recorded and mixed, the latter with Joey Rudell, who also designed cover and did the layout for the four-panel digipak pressing. Being self-contained on multiple levels has its ups and downs — see also: booking shows — but according to the liner, Gold built the studio in which Supa-Collider was tracked, so to think of them becoming more comfortable in a recording space as they continue to progress in terms of their writing and aesthetic only adds to the potential they show here. What matters most, however, are the songs themselves, and Powered Wig Machine already have the songs working in their favor on their debut.