The Atomic Bitchwax, The Local Fuzz: The Attack of the Riff-Loving Nipplebot

Stalwarts of the New Jersey stoner/heavy rock scene, The Atomic Bitchwax have come a long way since their 1999 self-titled debut on Tee Pee Records, and not just in terms of lineup. The band, once considered by many an offshoot of Monster Magnet for the participation of guitarist Ed Mundell, has endured under the careful eye of bassist, vocalist and founder Chris Kosnik, who found a virtual stylistic rebirth when he teamed up with former Core guitarist Finn Ryan for 2005’s 3. Having also survived the departure of drummer Keith Ackerman (who has since joined and left Solace) and recruited Monster Magnet/Riotgod’s Bob Pantella for the more pop-oriented TAB4 in 2009, which also marked their return to Tee Pee after a stint on MeteorCity, The Atomic Bitchwax are back in 2011 with the curiously non-numerically titled The Local Fuzz.

Admittedly, neither the Spit Blood nor the Boxriff EPs had numbers in their title, but The Local Fuzz is definitely a full-length album at 42 minutes, so maybe it’s the fact that it’s so different from anything The Atomic Bitchwax has done before that inspired the change in nomenclature. The Local Fuzz is comprised of a single titular track that runs, reportedly (I feel remiss in confessing this, but I didn’t count for myself), through a course of no less than 50 riffs, and is entirely instrumental. Compared to the tightness of songwriting and adherence to structure that showed itself on TAB4 in songs like “Sometimes Wednesday” and “Wreck You,” it’s a definite curveball on the part of Kosnik, Ryan and Pantella, and though there are parts throughout where it sounds like one of The Atomic Bitchwax’s many instrumental introductions and interludes that have been spread over their discography and live shows – rather than a larger work, that is – for lovers of the riff, The Local Fuzz cuts out just about any middleman you can think of. It’s probably the most direct line to the essence of heavy rock you can take.

Kosnik’s trademark twisting riff style opens “The Local Fuzz,” and in a few brief moments (and riffs) we’re into a handclap section with some light psychedelic noise behind it. Mostly on display throughout the extended track is the tightness of play between Kosnik and Pantella as the rhythm section and Kosnik and Ryan as the strings. That’s how it has to be, really, since the vocal interplay that’s become so crucial to The Atomic Bitchwax’s sound in the Kosnik/Ryan era of the band is completely absent here, but with the fuzz front and center, one could hardly say the trio aren’t right in their element. And for what it’s worth, The Local Fuzz doesn’t sound like the product of one long, aimless jam. Solos are taken throughout but not in a vocal-replacement or otherwise unnatural way, and although there isn’t much in “The Local Fuzz” by way of repeated parts or verse/chorus structure, the flow from one movement to the next is remarkable. Even as the guitars mellow out just after 23 minutes in and Kosnik’s bass introduces what’s ostensibly the back half of the album with subtle melodies from Ryan over top, it’s a friendly, easy, warm and inviting sound. You want to go with it, is what I’m saying.

And as they close with some of the same synth/keyboard noise with which they opened, it seems The Atomic Bitchwax can’t help but include some measure of symmetry to what they do. I don’t know what brought about the change from TAB4 to The Local Fuzz in terms of methodology, but if you’ve followed Kosnik this far into his journey with The Atomic Bitchwax, it shouldn’t be any trouble at all to get down with The Local Fuzz’s groove and many changes. I like the thought of the band in the rehearsal room saying, “Well, we have all these riffs down, so screw it, let’s just record them and call it the record,” and though I’ve no idea whether or not that’s actually how it went, the ethic as it plays out over these 42 minutes is enjoyable nonetheless. They vary the approach in their usual way from heavy riffs and some light crunch to ‘70s radio bliss and maybe even throw in some of that quirky pop bounce (about a half-hour in) from the last album, but there’s no denying The Local Fuzz is different from anything The Atomic Bitchwax have ever done before, and more than 15 years into his career with the band, it’s good to know Kosnik still feels passionate enough about what he does to want to take it down new avenues of exploration. Riff hounds, rejoice.

The Atomic Bitchwax’s website

Tee Pee Records

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4 Responses to “The Atomic Bitchwax, The Local Fuzz: The Attack of the Riff-Loving Nipplebot”

  1. The Klepto says:

    See, I’m in the air about this one. I love TAB and was a little intrigued when I heard it was one 40 min song, but now that I know it’s all instrumental I’m not looking forward to it nearly as much as before. I know I’ll still get it, but not with the anticipation of their previous efforts

  2. Michael says:

    I’m curious to hear it. This trio is uber talented and can come up with some sick riff/jams. A little disappointed that it’s instrumental though. Seriously, the best that could come out of it would be a backing track on a TV show. Here’s to hoping that a full-length album (w/lyrics & vocals) is right around the corner from this release.

  3. Papa Wheelie says:

    This is my favorite TAB yet…
    it’s a fuckin journey, man.

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