Sorry everyone, but Boris is never going to remake Pink, their 2005 opus that so expertly combined punk-metal grit with crushingly huge shoegaze moments, and arguably gained them their largest contingent of American fans and critical fawning. If the subsequent Smile and the Japanese Heavy Rock Hits 7″ series were any indication, the long running Japanese-trio simply had no interest in revisiting or revising past triumphs. In fact, if the three members of Boris were Major League Baseball pitchers instead of musicians, everybody would be hitting home runs off of them because they only have one kind of pitch: curveballs.
This makes the existence of Heavy Rocks a little troubling. First, fans of the band will recognize the title of the album as having first appeared on the 2002 album that ushered in their experiments with punk and stoner rock. Even the cover art of the album is nothing more than a palette swap, exchanging the original’s bright orange for purple. Second, the 2011 edition of Heavy Rocks comes at the exact same time as Attention: Please, their latest curveball. The latter album is a sensual, surprising set of tunes sung entirely by guitarist Wata. It takes an almost infinite series of left turns, and contains at least one pop-metal gem (“Hope”). Meanwhile, Heavy Rocks is another reliably heavy, more straightforward package. This is by no means a bad thing, but the simultaneous release with the daring, potentially alienating Attention: Please smacks a little like an attempt to throw a familiarly named and sounding bone to those who will complain about Attention: Please not being heavy enough. To a degree, it works. There is an undeniable thrill in hearing Wata tear into one of her paint peeling psych-metal guitar leads on opening track “Riot Sugar” immediately after listening to her self boundary-pushing turn on Attention: Please.
Despite the somewhat dubious timing of Heavy Rocks‘ release, there are still some awesome songs to be found here, and the album as a whole acts a great sampler platter of all of Boris’ strengths. Sprawling, thunderous slabs of emotional doom are represented by “Missing Pieces” and “Aileron,” each of which clock in at over 12 minutes, and find the band at their deafening peak, at one point making over two minutes worth of white noise seem compelling. Their fun-loving, slightly weird side comes out on “GALAXIANS,” one of their punk-leaning tracks that manages to hit even harder than usual, punctuated by drummer Atsuo’s always-exhilarating yelps.
There are a few moments here where new directions are hinted at. “Riot Sugar” executes the Ian Astbury-assisted sound of the BXI EP to greater success, bouncing along with the production-assisted crunch of vintage Metallica while the band (and Astbury, in a guest appearance) wail away on a simple but effective chorus. “Leak-Truth, yesnoyesnoyes-” is just downright sexy, Takeshi’s fuzzed out bass sleazing up the whispered verses that lead into the explosive, falsetto-sung choruses while Wata drops slashing chords and leads throughout.
For all the good that appears here, the fact that this is Boris at their absolute safest can not be ignored. Once again, even though they’re doing what they do better than most, Heavy Rocks being released at the same time as Attention: Please casts a pall on its status in the Boris canon. Had it been released a year before or after, it would have been possibly hailed as a proficient return to familiar sounds, but as it is, it almost represents a confidence crisis, which is troubling when attached to a band that has built an entire career out of confounding everyone’s expectations and definitions of heavy music with total abandon.