Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky
hough the shift occurred slowly and subtly, it’s now complete and undeniable: there’s more rock ‘n’ roll in car commercials than on the radio. When the latest rugged status symbol summits on a rocky ridge, the Sonics or the Who are likely spurring them on. There’s that scene in Rushmore where Miss Croft asks Max in Latin, “Is nothing sacred?” And Max responds, “Glory fades.” So it goes with garage rock. A band like Earthless, banking on pounding rhythms and scatological power chords, can’t be held accountable for the decisions of marketing execs, but likely they will be affected by the cultural fallout. Heavy blues jamming feels pretty much de-fanged by now, though Earthless make a solid case for its longevity.
With an album titled Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky, Earthless aren’t trying to fleece anyone about their intentions. They play “psychedelic” blues barn-burners that nod to Ram Jam more than Sabbath and Hawkwind more than Blue Cheer. It’s music so freewheeling that it begs to be slathered with hyperbole. You know, the usual “gamma rays of madness bashing your DNA into the Stone Age on laser fingers” type of thing.
The first track is divided, somewhat arbitrarily, into five movements called “Godspeed: Amplified / Passing / Trajectory / Perception / Cascade.” Its opening riffs are huge and exciting and, amazingly, the band milks that adrenaline drip for nearly eight minutes. Too bad, then, the song goes on for another twelve doggie-paddling in pentatonic circles until a vortex drags it all under. The problem with the first two tracks is their redundancy: the band eventually discounts dynamic modulation after a while and, then, the song doesn’t develop any further. That said, if you don’t experience a shudder at the phrase “twelve minute acid jam,” maybe you will find no fault here.
It certainly helps that Earthless have massive chops and, refreshingly, embrace a stripped down sound. They play tightly for all the expansiveness implied by their chosen genre and Mario Rubalcaba (drummer, formerly of Rocket from the Crypt, Clikitat Ikatowi, and the belligerent, post-hardcore Hot Snakes) plays particularly expressively on “Cherry Red,” the shortest track and a cover of the (apparently) classic Groundhogs. It’s got a beast of a riff and drums kicking up all sorts of dust. Not stardust, either. Genuine volcanic ash. They even unbuckle for some falsetto. On the playground we’d have called it a chronople.
Earthless shackle themselves to such a distinctive era, it’s tough to parse their identity; when you get in bed with Japanese psych, it always steals the covers. Fortunately, they do have more teeth than your average car commercial band, and their titanic song lengths serve primarily to separate the wheat from the psychoactive chaff. In other words, it’s perfect material to enliven a mountaineering expedition in the family luxury sedan.
Reviewed by: Charles Robbins
Reviewed on: 2007-07-10