Thursday, 17 January 2013

Glitter Wizard - Hunting Gatherers (album review)

Glitter Wizard are a big deal here at Paranoid Hitsophrenic HQ.  Their summer 2011 debut full-length 'Solar Hits' charmed and enraptured both myself and my girlfriend, a stamp of approval not easily acquired.  It's incredibly rare for the both of us to simultaneously turn our keys and launch torpedo by the same artist but thus is the devastating power of Glitter Wizard (that sounded vaguely sexual but it wasn't meant to, my sincerest apologies).  So after a year and a quarter (during which 'G-Wiz' released a nice 7" single "Horses" b/w "Fire") it was time to raise the curtain on their much anticipated (here anyway) follow-up.

There's something to be said for a band that can take a four minute song and make it feel like a sprawling epic and Glitter Wizard manage to do just that on album opener "Worship The Devil".  That's not to say that the four minutes seem overly long or drag, but by a simple technique of kicking out two uptempo verses in the band's inimitable and familiar synth-driven style in just under a minute and a half's length then gearing down for a flute-guided journey through the desert the listener feels as though a strange and fulfilling journey has just taken place.  It's not the first time we've heard the band sprawl but it's a more tightly focused effort than "Warsawng" or "Mirror Man", for example.  For the most part, the San Francisco based quintet stick to a familiar sound for the duration of the album, with the possible exception of the sublime "Sunlit Wolves" which find the band donning acid folk accoutrements.

There are signs of a slow churning growth and maturity, however.  The epic side of the band, really only hinted at on "Worship The Devil", blossoms brilliantly on "Space".  It is the ultimate expression of the band's considerable potential, the culmination of their ideas.  If someone were to ask "what's Glitter Wizard all about?" I'd show them this song.  It starts out swaggering and aggressive, then goes all hippie in the middle with a head-swimming flute exploration, then washes back in with full swagger and a funny coda: "No son of mine's gonna mess around with no ET pussy / Don't want no inhuman grandchild".  "Space" is just an amazing song and it and "Worship the Devil" begin to become the norm as "Ragdoll (Deux)" features a similar progression, promising a great future.  In a way, it's unthinkable that a neo-glam band whose collective tongues seem forever planted in their cheeks, who describe their music as "pink metal", would show these signs of growth and maturity, if it is such.  But perhaps the Glitter Wizard himself is really just a Sad Clown, whose theatrics mask an inner longing for a deeper kind of self-expression.  Who knows?  There are signs of stagnation too, album closer "Big Sur" goes off on tangents, getting closer to the kind of jamming found on 'Solar Hits', rather than the controlled, highly structured side of the band shown on this album.  'Solar Hits' had its share of epic material, but it was characterized more by wild balls-out jamming than the tightly controlled dynamism shown here.

"Wizard Wagon" sounds as though it was written with the 'Solar Hits' material, recalling to mind "Mirror Man" or "ABACA" for sheer catchiness and straight forward simplicity.  "Motorider" falls under this category as well.  There aren't as many catchy hooks on 'Hunting Gatherers' and while the band has tightened up structurally, what has been gained on the one hand is lost in terms of overall hookiness.  Within the overall framework of the Glitter Wizard sound is variance.  Flute and synth stand toe to toe with guitars as lead instruments, saxophones take a bit of a back seat on this album, but the band do enough without them that they aren't truly missed.

Overall, Glitter Wizard doesn't add a lot to its bag of tricks.  They have a signature sound that is instantly recognizable and they have stuck to it, take it or leave it.  I for one will take it, but anybody looking for the band to make giant strides are going to be left cold by this release.  In a way, this is an intermediate record in the band's overall discography, not a make or break one.  They established a strong sound on their first album, this one expands and adds to the overall palette without straying too far but showing signs of growth and change.  It's the band's next full-length release that will really tell the tale about where this band is headed.

Highlights include: "Space" and "Worship The Devil"

Rating: 4/5

Total Run Time: 39:33

From: San Francisco, California

Genre: Glam Rock, Psychedelic, Hard Rock, Stoner

Reminds me of: Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, The Stooges, Witchfinder General

Release Date: November 16, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Freak out the s

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