Rock ‘n’ roll can claim many now-common expressions as its own. Whether through a simple shade of meaning (as in “gear” or “shred”) or with an entirely new creation (as in “groupie” or “pick”), rock has had its hoary way over the years with whatever remained of the King’s English. Of all the treats in rock’s great slang grab-bag, “fuzz” is one of my favorites. More perfectly than its brethren, that little four-letter word looks and sounds exactly like what it describes – a ’67 Telecaster run through a Vox distortion pedal, a Crybaby Wah, and an Orange head sat atop a Marshall half-stack.
If, like me, you aren’t similarly equipped, you can get yourself a copy of Dead Meadow’s Feathers, their second for Matador and fifth overall. The album distills the essence of the term better than any dictionary you could find on a bookshelf. On the D.C. crew’s 2003 release, Shivering King and Others, everything from Steve Kille’s stalking bass to Jason Simon’s lava-lamp vocals pulsed in menacing analog and Big Dipper echo chambers. With the addition of guitarist Cory Shane, Dead Meadow’s epic sludge is muddied even further. “Get up on Down” and “Let It All Pass” are all black lights, delay pedals and Tolkien shot through 1971 hardware and 2005 narcotics.
As such, Feathers comes off less like stoner rock and more like stoned rock. At three minutes shy of an hour, Dead Meadow’s peanut butter jams can start to stick to the roof of your mouth around the 45th minute. The quartet’s relentless riffage on opener “Let’s Jump In” can seem appealing precisely for its obstinacy, but by the time you’ve gotten to the closer, all that bong water starts to smell a bit. To be fair, Shane and Simon expand the formula some on “Stacy’s Song” — a mellow ode to Led Zeppelin III set with lazy-eyed harmonies and slide guitar. But such acoustic interludes are not the realm of Dead Meadow’s medieval pop.
The guys deserve some looks for playing garage-rock with such headless passion without quoting the MC5, the Kinks, or anyone from CBGB’s, but they’ve yet to prove they know much more about rock than “fuzz.” Or, just listen to Simon himself; “Let it Pass” tells you all you need to know: “All things in time/ when nothing will last/ Lord I don’t mind, let it all pass.”