Potential headlines for a potential article on John Wilkes Booze (a band with potential):
Indiana Rockers Make Most of Moronic Band Name
Psyche Your Mind: The Story of John Wilkes Booze
Sings Like a Baby (on LSD): The Story of John Wilkes Booze Vocalist Seth Mahern, or A Cautionary Tale About the Dangers of Infant Drug Use
“Bernadine,” or What to Play Since The White Stripes Forgot How to Rock
“Sic Semper Tyrannis”: Punk-Rock Rally Cry or Crazed Assassin Justifies Behavior?
John Wilkes Booze, formerly the John Wilkes Booze Explosion, flexed its concept-album muscles on its Kill Rock Stars debut, 5 Pillars Of Soul (2004), focusing its songwriting around a quintet of soulful figures: Melvin van Peebles, Patty Hearst, Albert Ayler, Marc Bolan and Yoko Ono. Telescopic Eyes Glance the Future Sick isn’t concept driven to the same extent, though political and revolutionary undertones seep through many of the lyrics. But the songs stick together through a common tone (as much as rambling psychedelic blues can) and a balance between the weird and the not-so-weird.
Staggered by several interlude-ish tracks that use vocal samples (“Know Your Enemy Pt. 1”) and ghostly chants (“Always is Always Forever”), the album explores enough sonic variation that the somewhat predictable guitar-freak-out-plus-punk-vocal-screech formula of the band’s balls-out rocking moments, such as “Bernadine” or “War Drums,” never becomes overused. Instead John Wilkes Booze mixes these easy-to-please tracks with tougher-to-grasp moments.
The psychedelic hum, wah-wah guitar and spooky background noises of the jam-tastic “Can’t Take It” craft an eerie mood as the grasp of the album’s final four songs clenches onto some distorted reality, much to the same extent as Black Mountain did on its 2005 release. “The Rattler” drums its way into a tribal trance, “So Much Mahal” stretches its cultural boundaries, and “Heliocentric Views Pt. 2” caps everything off with a synthesis of the two extremes the album has established. Neither the straightforward rockers nor the peculiar oddities could have existed on their own, and in blending the two so well, John Wilkes Booze manages to keep ears hooked to Telescopic Eyes Glance the Future Sick for its entirety.
Now, let’s talk about that name.