Dusted Reviews

The Warlocks - Surgery

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: The Warlocks

Album: Surgery

Label: Mute

Review date: Aug. 25, 2005

It’s easy to glance peremptorily at the Warlocks’ latest and assume they’re looking for a “hit”: Surgery contains only two songs that run over five minutes, precluding the band’s signature psych-sleaze jams, and it’s produced by Tom Rothrock, whose credits include hit radio records by Beck, Foo Fighters, and Coldplay. Unfortunately, despite a few exceptions, this assumption seems spot-on. Surgery finds The Warlocks sacrificing the greasy LA glamour and atmospheric drone of previous efforts like 2000’s brilliant self-titled EP and 2002’s Phoenix LP, in favor of what seems to be a misguided stab at radio-friendliness.

The first track (and single) “Come Save Us,” seems the Warlocks’ first essay into taking over the “pop-radio shoegaze” slot once half-occupied by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, (whose new record streets, inauspiciously, the same day as Surgery). “Come Save Us” would be a credible Psychocandy B-side were it not for Rothrock’s first sin: singer/songwriter Bobby Hecksher’s vocals are pushed to the front of the mix, where his flat, nasal voice becomes an assault.

Later tracks are more even, but nowhere does Surgery produce the stony pleasure of previous efforts, which found Hecksher’s whine meeting and matching the guitar’s, more textural than vocal. A few tracks make good use of Hecksher’s newly-fronted vocals, referencing ’90s power-pop: “It’s Just Like Surgery” surprises with buzzy guitar hooks, while the blearily catchy, layered “Evil Eyes Again” recalls mid-career Redd Kross. But everywhere Rothrock’s production asserts itself viciously, forcing open a track that craves compression, imposing clarity where dirty fuzz is desperately needed.

Despite his efforts, Surgery retains a few gems. “Angels in Heaven, Angels in Hell” outs Hecksher’s self-avowed Phil Spector fetish, and here The Warlocks come closer to the “sonic space age doo wop” he claims to be after. Here Hecksher’s foregrounded vocals are – like a Joey Ramone ballad (or a Shar-Pei puppy) – so ugly they’re lovely. Where the listener expects the band to break away into a signature searing guitar line or jammy breakdown, they don’t; by preserving their original song-structures, Hecksher forges his 1960s girl-group references into a gorgeous homage.

Other highlights include “Thursday’s Radiation,” whose satisfying buzz-swirl guitarwork overcomes its simpering shoegaze vocals, and “The Tangent,” a simple ballad, that Mo Tucker might have sung with the Velvet Underground, backed by lovingly intricate guitar squall. The last track, “Suicide Note,” is (at 12:12) a return to form for the typically long-jamming Warlocks; it’s a song that begs to be performed as a live finale for twice its recorded length, for a dwindling, swaying crowd of boozy die-hards. More, it proves that the Warlocks can overcome even heavy-handed production to create some of the most fantastic rock guitar sounds of the last decade.

By Anna Bond

Other Reviews of The Warlocks


Read More

View all articles by Anna Bond

Find out more about Mute

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.