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The Warlocks - Phoenix

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Artist: The Warlocks

Album: Phoenix

Label: Birdman

Review date: Jan. 15, 2003

Toking on the Ashes of Psych Past

LA’s Warlocks are the latest ragged bunch of doped-up kids climbing to the top of the indie charts by channeling the glory of ’60s garage rock. Taking cues from the usual mix of the Velvets, Stooges, Stones, early Floyd and the darker side of psychedelic pop, the band creates a suitably heady brew of narcotic fuzz rock. Their second full-length, Phoenix Album is a solid 64 minutes of cavernous drumming, propulsive, grating guitars and cotton-mouthed moans.

Boasting four guitarists, a handful of drummers, bass, lap steel, sitar, harmonica organ and keyboards, the band is loaded full of instrumentation -- and never afraid to make some serious sound. Even during the most droning aural excursions, the band drops webs of feedback and supercharged psych.

To paraphrase the Spacemen 3 – whose Sonic Boom guests here on guitar – Warlocks are taking drugs to make music to take drugs to. There is no attempt to veil the fact that the Phoenix Album is a disc made for wasters by wasters. And while the marriage of drugs and rock ‘n’ roll sure ain’t new, you have to hand it to the band for their sheer dedication to the schtick. Opener “Shake The Dope Out” is a pure strobe-lit, glue-sniffing anthem. Buzzing guitars and ethereal “la-la-la” backing vocals wrap around a reverb-soaked blues lead and motorik drumming.

The playing on Phoenix Album is deceptively simple – focusing more on the intricate layering of sound than over-the-top prog wankery. “Hurricane Heart Attack” scrapes by on a guttural, one-note bass lick and repetitive chord structure. However, far from minimalism, the resulting sound is loud, driving stoner-rock.

“Inside Outside” and “Sick Man Blues” are perfect mid-tempo rock cuts. Front man Bobby Hecksher yelps like an opiated Iggy while walls of noise rise and fall behind him. “The Dope Feels Good” is THC-clogged jangle-pop, like the Byrds after a week-long bender.

While indebted to the icons of rock past, overall Warlocks end up sounding more like modern retro-obsessives than true genre-benders. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Jesus and Mary Chain and early Verve aren’t bad bands to echo, but realize the result is seriously devoid of originality. Still, when boiled down to sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, The Warlocks provide one hell of a trip.

By Ethan Covey

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