So after two fairly easy on the ear months with Matthew E White and The Districts, Rough Trade’s April offering is something a little more abrasive.
Wand’s “Golem” is dirty and fuzzy. You feel like taking a bath after listening to it and I’m still trying to work out if this is a good or a bad thing.
The album is released on the In The Red label.
As their logo suggests, the roster is based around loud guitar/garage band that drive the needle to the right of the meter. I’ve previously enjoyed some of their releases by the Dirtbombs (who have a great line in dirty guitar covers of classic soul and funk records) and the Strange Boys, whose “And Girls Club” album from 2009 I particularly enjoyed at the time with a spindly take on classic Nuggets style garage rock. The label is based in Los Angeles and was started by Larry Hardy in 1990.
Larry gets as much of his revenue from licensing to advertising as he does from selling his records. They don’t see that as a sell out as in these straitened times, it gives the label freedom to record who they want when they want, based on handshake deals. The aforementioned Dirtbombs “Ultraglide in Black” is the label’s biggest seller at just over 20,000. Larry had worked with the Cramps at the end of their career as an engineer and you can hear his fondness for Lux and Ivy’s work in much of what is issued on the label. King Khan, who I saw put on a great over the top revue show at Ally Pally a few years ago, is also on the label.
Wand are a traditional guitar x 2-bass-drums 4 piece with the occasional bit of keyboard.
The album was recorded in Sacramento and produced by Chris Woodhouse who has produced Thee Oh Sees who I saw on the same Ally Pally bill as King Khan. It comes in red transluscent vinyl with a 3 track bonus CD.
As I said earlier this is a dirty scuzzy album. It reminds me of the Melvins and Boris. In many senses , it is the polar opposite of the Districts album, as far young white guitar bands go. It’s all a bit mystical and magical, which aren’t necessarily the things I generally go for. The bass is distorted and the rhythm sections has a drive to it which is reminiscent of Nirvana. The guitars move from screaming feedback to gentle washes and the vocals are whispily buried somewhere deep in the mix. They are the American cousins of Temples, whose debut “Sun Structures” last year was great listen and was Rough Trade’s album of the Year.
The standouts includes “Self Hypnosis In 3 Days” which feels like Kim Wilde’s “Kids In America” being covered by Black Sabbath whilst taking uppers rather than downers and giving up halfway through and then deciding just to go for it.
Things mellow out for “Melted Rope”, which is the closest the album gets to a ballad with even an acoustic guitar present. The Nirvana influences really come to the fore on “Floating Hand”. Things get out of hand on “Planet Golem”, a place I’m not sure I would want to live judging by the last couple of minutes.
This is a rather nice animated video accompanying “Flying Golem” by Meghan Tryon & Garrett M Davis, who also do the cover art.
The album closes with “The Drift” which is a pretty literal track with a nice soft bed of guitar noise.
I took the opportunity to see them live this week at a Rough Trade East in-store appearance. They were enjoyable. Some of the blocks of the noise were a bit overpowering to my ageing ears but there was some deft melodic touches and the tracks I noted above shone through. The rhythm section in particular was rock solid.
The band were kind enough to let me take some shots so these are my nascent attempt at some gig photography. There’s still work to do on my behalf!
Just to go back to the top, here’s a great video of The Dirtbombs doing a cover of “Underdog”, from the great Sly Stone’s “A Whole New Thing” album. Any of their wonderfully dirty covers are worth checking out.