Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Bad Light - Onward Downward (album review)

Cover artwork by Eduardo Cerro (guitars, vocals)
There's always a trace of fear when listening to the latest opus of a favorite new band.  After all, last year's 'Marrow of Sound' was an excellent debut EP from The Bad Light, one that I became quite attached to.  It showcased the band's truly unique blend of stoner blues with hints of jazz elements, especially in the always unpredictable drumming of Nate Gonzales.  I thought quite highly of the effort and was still listening to it regularly in fact when this, their follow-up effort was released a month ago.

As always with The Bad Light, the fuzz tone is something really special here.  It captures the sound and feeling on the high noon sun on the blacktop pavement, it's the sound sweat makes as it pushes through the pores, it boils tars and fries eggs.  I can't tell you whether or not the guitar is double tracked but Edu Cerro never forgets to add a strong dose of melodic counterpoint.  Opening pair "Neuronaut" and "The Judge" sound as though they were written and recorded during the 'Marrow of Sound' sessions, re-capturing the spirit of the band's original offering.

"Looping the Wiring" brings a new sound to the table.  A kind of shucking off of the jazzy improvisational elements to their sound: a straightforward verse-chorus structure with straightforward guitar and drum riffs.  A simplification if you will, showing some heavier or deeper blues influence, specifically The Black Keys particular brand of jump blues.  It's a telling detail that at 3 minutes, 37 seconds it's the shortest of the band's 11 released songs by as much as a minute.  As much as it's a shame to hear the band take a small step away from what made them so unique, they do a bang-up job here.  If this is the direction the band decides to go in, they have not only proven capable of penning the tighter, riffier, catchier, less loping and more structured material, while maintaining a distinctive sound among a widening crop of terrific B.K. influenced bands.

But that's not even the half of it.  "I'll Welcome You At My Door" is the most different of any of their songs to date, a duet for starters, slower and even more bluesy.  The band brought in Kristie Angeline for this duet. A good friend of the band, she matches Eduardo's gruff drunken slurring vocal with soulful force and a comfortable familiarity.

As was their last effort, 'Onward Downward' to me is perfect morning music.  Make that late, late night music.  With the sun coming up over the mountains strangling off the last ancient shadows of the night, desert under foot (if possible).  The whole thing drips with west coast feeling.  Stoned cowboy blues.  There's a few different styles of blues on display here, the more jazzy and organic fried egg fuzz sound of their first demo, a streamlined approach and the rural, back porch, lazily swaying tall grass sound of the duet.  After two EPs worth of eleven tracks, and now some varied material in the bunch, I haven't heard a bad song from this band yet.

Highlights include: "Neuronaut" and "Onward Downward"

Rating: 4/5

Total Run Time: 23:52

Eduardo Cerro - Guitar/Vocals
Nate Gonzales - Drums
Emily Pegoda - Backing Vocals

From: Santa Cruz, California

Genre: Stoner, Blues

Reminds me of: The Black Keys, Heavy Eyes

Release Date: March 7, 2013

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: 1). Set up two speakers.  2).  Make sure they are facing each other.   3).  Crack an egg and let the contents slide into the space between the speakers.  4). See if the egg doesn't fry.

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