The Warlocks | Rise and Fall + EP and Rarities (Zap Banana)

The slow burn of the freaky folk will lift the demon souls from whatever bowels in which they may rest. It’s healing, really.

It’s not easy to peg The Warlocks as simply a no frills, neo-psychedelic band. With Rise and Fall, they are a hearty mish-mash of progressive, krautrock, dreamy shoegaze, drippy, bearded freak folk, and, well, psychedelic, however broad a description that may prove to be. Essentially, the band becomes a mix-up of everything they love, and their music reflects their psychotropic influences to a T.
Rise and Fall, their first LP, has existed since 2001 as a drony primavera of caveman-stomped freakouts, jangled, garage-dwelling, dressed-in-black guitar drillings and Syd Barrett style mind-warping, dopecoustic day-trippers. “Jam of the Witches” kicks the album off in a fury of fuzz and feedback, then rolls into an upbeat noise machine before finally wrangling itself into a layered, shaky ride to end with a spin-then-drop sort of standstill. The songs that follow are all very different in sound, but share one common cause: to get into our minds and make us love them by manipulating sounds that are difficult not to like. Listen to “House of Glass” and find something unsuccessful about it. Only those too pretentious or stuck in jam-band land could object.
The thing about neo-psychedelic music as a whole is that most of it is fairly predictable. When it’s not in its patchy feedback-soaked, guitar-saw state, it is as close to straightforward rock as possible—a sound that can immediately be played back in one’s mind. A certain degree of familiarity is okay in this type of music because that’s what it’s all about—it’s an all-encompassing homage to a group of influences, peppered with individual flair. Most of it draws from many different sounds. There’s the early Pink Floyd, The Velvet Underground, 13th Floor Elevators and all the other ‘60s garage/psych rock. Then comes The Jesus And Mary Chain, which is more about fuzz, feedback and reverby vocals. There’s My Bloody Valentine, which is primarily shoegaze and layered, textured and bendy guitars, but sort of on the same page as JAMC. Then, Spacemen 3 comes out of the woodwork with atmospheric, kraut-y stuff that’s still psych-friendly.
Those groups laid the groundwork for other bands to come: Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Raveonettes, The Black Angels and our own Warlocks, among others. They’ve emerged with a found sound that’s been thrown into whatever spinning monstrosity they call their own. They are all hybrids of things past. Should we be disappointed in the genre? No, because it’s still musically relevant and still sounds good. Isn’t all of the music we like just a product of what’s been done before? Can’t we just enjoy The Warlocks for what they are, right now? We should, because what they’re doing is believable and unhyped and the purest form they could muster without casting themselves into the contrived, where leather jackets and bad Lou Reed haircuts run rampant.
The decision to thrust a work like Rise and Fall back into print—a work that, in the early 2000s, helped coax the west coast off of its strict BJM and Dandy Warhols regimen, all while returning to supplement the EP and unreleased stuff along with it—seems to hoist the album back into noisy, refreshing relevance. We’re back to being familiar. We’ve opened up a sound that may have been forgotten, but is always welcomed. That’s how listening to the album for the first time makes one feel—like it’s been there a while and it’s simply a revisit to an old gem of the past.
Rise and Fall + EP and Rarities is genuinely pleasing to listen to alone, very loudly. The lyrics will reflect a little desperation and an overall party-hardy vibe. The guitar crunch will mend human and speaker. The aboriginal drum slinging (particularly on the live stuff) will conjure the broken spirits of rock within to come forth and fucking lose it. The slow burn of the freaky folk will lift the demon souls from whatever bowels in which they may rest. It’s healing, really.
Something about “Right and Left of the Moon” and “Motorcycle” is more relaxed and less grinding, and they sort of embody a more peaceful yet extremely constant demeanor. The former sounds like a Syd Barrett B-side, and they’re both a nice break from the crunch-crunch—moreover, it’s spacey, pretty stuff. The previously unreleased tracks open up with “Jam of the Druids,” a super fast-paced hell ride, which is the perfect opener to this group of songs. Then it’s chilled out, folksy unheard-of numbers like “Turn the Radio On” and “Total Headache” that help to calm the tone all over again. Afterwards, an alternate version of “Inside/Outside” holds a solid, driving riff, and when coupled with the droning, feedback and tremolo, it just about achieves perfection. The album closes with two demo versions of actual recordings—“Shake the Dope Out” and “The Dope Feels Good,” both off of their second LP, Phoenix.
What’s to be specifically noted here is that while there could be a theme of familiarity, The Warlocks’ sound is wholeheartedly and confidently fleshed out. There’s a certain respectable and mature ode to psychedelic music accomplished here, and they do it without hitting copycat status or compromising what’s typically the goal of lesser-known independent outfits—making music for the good of music. A | Justin Curia
RIYL: The Velvet Underground, The Black Angels, Syd Barrett

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