Thursday, 27 February 2014

Naked Brown - Not So Bad (album review)

Cover artwork by Przemysław Szukaj.
I won't be coy about this: 'Not So Bad' is the best stoner rock album I've heard in what seems like a very long time.  I've caught my ears on some great albums during that nebulous span, but this one takes the crown.  Bolder, tougher, harder and heavier than most everything else, but also groovier, Polish quartet Naked Brown have recorded one for the ages.  Nearly all the music I hear coming out of Poland is just a couple pounds heavier and few shades dirtier than all the rest and Naked Brown are no exception.  These dudes are rockers and go all the way with it.

The second time I listened to opening cut, "The King Is Back", the drum solo that kicks the album off actually put a smile on my face that wouldn't be wiped off until well into the song, at which point it was down to the more serious business of nodding along / outright headbanging.  I should mention that all this shamelessness took place on a public street, at a bus stop and on the bus.  Naked Brown strips you of all shame and self-consciousness.

Taking an overview of the album you may notice the uniformity of the song lengths, the greatest variation between song lengths appears with the final two tracks, “Storm is Comin’” at 4:26 and “Just Like Luke (Skywalker)” at 5:16.  Those are the shortest and longest cuts on the album.  This may sounds like a pointless detail but it goes great distances towards describing the band’s approach to songwriting.  Naked Brown aren’t going to bowl you over with inventive song structures or outside-the-box thinking, each song is made up of the classic verse-chorus-solo rotation.  Still, some believe that the highest artistic achievements are made within limiting confines.  So, that being the case, the success of each song must fall solely on the strength of the riffs, melodies and drum syncopation.

Like Motorhead, Naked Brown isn’t for everyone, this is heavy rock music for headbangers, pure and simple.  In so many ways, a band such as this (and they don’t come around all too often) are the direct descendants of Chuck Berry in that this is hyper-making music on the cutting edge of contemporary heaviness.  With all that said, the difference between Naked Brown and Chuck Berry or Motorhead is the level of variation between songs within those restricting confines of consistent individual identity and similar structures.  Each song is a distinctive and unique sibling, as opposed to being a genetic twin of the one that came before it.  The one overriding factor of each song is the mood.  This is rarely more evident than between the blues-bar anthem “Made To Kill” and it’s sold-out stadium heavy metal follow-up “T.O.D. the Barbarian”.  That mood or thing that ties it all together is the consistent instrumental tone.  Again, the band works with a limited palette of tones and structures and paints heavy rock masterpieces with a surprising range of styles. 

But just in case I didn’t make myself clear, this is the best stoner rock record I’ve heard in a long time.  Naked Brown errs on the energetic side, much of that has to do with the excellent drumming of Tomasz Wyrąbkiewicz who keeps things moving at a psychobilly pace and pulls everything out of the bag from double kick to cowbell.  Don’t miss this one, my words fall far short of what this album is all about, it simply kicks ass.

Highlights include: "The King Is Back" and "T.O.D. The Barbarian"

Rating: 4.5/5

Total Run Time: 33:49

From: Gdańsk, Poland

Genre: Stoner Rock, Hard Rock, Metal

Reminds me of: Isaak, Motorhead, Palm Desert

Release Date: November 23, 2013

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