For how much democracy and equality Internet access to massive amounts of music has brought to the job of rock criticism, it can still remain a gig rife with arbitrariness. I’ve always been a huge fan of Galaxie 500, Spacemen 3, and other bands of that ilk, so my ears are inclined to perk up when band does a fair to good job of approximating that sound. That probably explains why I find much to enjoy in the music of the Warlocks, a band that has endured its share of critical lambasting. (Pitchfork has been particularly http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/record_review/23088-phoenix-album nasty http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/record_review/23089-surgery.) Sure, there are elements of the band’s music that just plain don’t work; but on the whole, Heavy Deavy Skull Lover, the Warlock’s biggest move into shoegazing, let’s-see-how-long-we-can-repeat-this-one-guitar-pattern psych rock yet, is an accomplished album.
The album’s first three songs meld together into one long sound-pattern suite. “The Valley of Death” and “Moving Mountains” are based on almost the exact same guitar arpeggios. Both feature Warlocks lead man Bobby Hecksher mewling about tormentors worldly and unworldly, his vocals buried deep in a hazy, fuzzy mix. “Moving Mountains” stretches out longer than ten minutes, soldiering on through the sludge of two false stops. After the second of those, the guitars speed up, jangling out what could be the soundtrack to a key tension-building sequence in a film. That peak resolves into “So Paranoid,” an ironically named tune because it’s actually the prettiest and most hopeful sounding song on the album.
Nothing else on Heavy Deavy Skull Lover compares to the album’s great beginning. Hecksher’s lyrics remain largely unintelligible throughout, except on “Zombie Like Lovers,” where he gets full-throated, and his pitch problems clue you into why he doesn’t pipe up more often. “Interlude in Reverse” is just that: Hecksher and company weren’t happy with the song after it was recorded, so they decided to just run it backward. Interesting things can be done with backward looping if used sparingly, but an entire song of it is just overkill. And the album just peters out with “Death, I Hear You Walking.” But a bad ending can’t take away from the fact that, for a few songs, the Warlocks almost reach the heights of the bands Hecksher et al so clearly look up to.