Friday, July 25, 2014








John Garcia is one of those musicians whose name should probably be heard much more often.  He’s certainly no stranger to lovers of heavy music, but outside the desert rock realm where John reigns supreme, you’d be hard pressed to find everyday rock and rollers who mention his name with any regularity. He’s got a hell of an impressive resume and has made many great records while collaborating with a vast array of musicians. But if all John Garcia had ever done was sing on one lone Kyuss record, he’d still be worthy of all his praise. That’s because his singing is that good. He’s a once in a generation sort of talent whose voice can make a mediocre band great, but all of John’s bands have been far from mediocre.

Kyuss caught on during a time when the flamboyant flash of hair metal had long since been decimated by the Pacific Northwestern roar of bands like Nirvana and the Melvins. Folks who were into heavier music got their ears used to the honey-gargling screams of singers like Kurt Cobain, or the nasally whine of alt-rockers like Billy Corgan. With the exception of a few celebrated vocalists like Ian Astbury, Chris Cornell and Glenn Danzig, it seemed the classic rock singing style that had evolved from the ‘70s was going to the wayside. The age of irony was coming fast, and that style was too serious for the college rock crowd. Even metalheads were beginning to pass over the soulful in favor of the guttural. And then the circus came to town. Kyuss hit the scene and managed to blow minds with their fuzzed out, low-end rumble, but the fiery, Gillan-esque howl of John Garcia propelled the band’s power deep into the stratosphere. Their influence on heavy music cannot be overstated. Grunge was no longer the go-to sound for hard rockers. All of the sudden everyone, everywhere wanted vintage gear, detuned guitars, and a singer that sounded like John Garcia.

Here it is, 2014. Ever since the glorious stoner rock era of the ‘90s, John Garcia has shown no sign of slowing down. With Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida, Hermano, and even a guest slot on a Metallica tribute, John’s solo album is his latest success after completing a worldwide tour with his current post-Kyuss project, Vista Chino. Undoubtedly, the positive fan response to Vista Chino is a sweet victory after being sued by former band mates over the use of the name, “Kyuss Lives,” for a 2011 spin-off tour. And if his new record is any indication, the Queens of the Stone Age camp had better watch their backs. John Garcia’s solo record is contemporary rock and roll that sounds professional and tight, and is sure to appeal to the tastes of many, not just the desert/stoner rock niche that he can’t seem to escape.

The album features a collection of songs that John’s had in the bank for decades. The opening track, “My Mind,” kicks thing off with powerful, downtuned riffing and blazing rock hooks while the narrative takes us inside of a man who’s at war with his own thoughts. The flow doesn’t stop there. The hit-worthy “Flower” could easily find itself in regular rotation on rock radio stations or any film soundtrack. The eastern flair of the main riff is reminiscent of “Sonic Temple”-era Cult or the strongest offerings by the Swedish super group, The Soundtrack of Our Lives. Most of the songs are sure to surprise longtime fans because they sound inspired without rehashing any material from Garcia’s previous projects. There is nary a Sabbath riff on the entire record, and for once, this is a good thing. All of the songs are classic four-on-the-floor rockers that range from the hard charged “Saddleback,” to the experimental “Confusion,” (you’ll think this song is a slow-burning doom number until the incredible vocal melody kicks in,) and the sexy slither of songs like “The Blvd,” with its cautionary refrain of, “The streets did your body no good.” The heaviest moment is found in the thick riffing of “Argleben,” which mops the floor with just about any other contemporary mainstream rock, (most notably the aforementioned litigious band mates). However, perhaps the most surprising moment is the melancholy album closer, “Her Spent Bullets,” featuring Doors’ guitarist, Robby Krieger. Robby’s signature flamenco picking softly soars over the song’s minor key melody, the perfect accompaniment to the impassioned vocals. It’s a sad, tender moment done right and an effective close to such a hard charging rock album.

John Garcia may have missed that window into the mainstream rock world that Josh Homme and company slid into back in the early ‘2000s. However, with the love of his devoted fans and the respect of his celebrated peers, not to mention his own unending talent, this may be the year where his bullet’s energy fires him into a future he’s never known.

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