Tuesday 21 October 2014

Brant Bjork & The Low Desert Punk Band - Black Power Flower (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 14/11/2014
Label: Napalm Records

‘Black Power Flower’ CD/DD/LP track listing:

1.  Controllers Destroyed
2.  We Don't Serve Their Kind
3.  Stokely Up Now
4.  Buddha Time (Everything Fine)
5.  Soldier Of Love
6.  Boogie Woogie On Your Brain
7.  Ain't No Runnin'
8.  That's A Fact, Jack
9.  Hustler's Blues
10. Where You From, Man 


No one can fool this man anymore: As a cult figure of the Palm Desert scene, as founder and drummer of the unfortunately no longer active Stoner-Rock legends Kyuss and a permanent member of Vista Chino (formerly KYUSS Lives!), the formation around Kyuss colleague John Garcia, Brant Bjork is washed with all (musical) waters. Now he is sailing under his own flag and proves once again that his multi-instrumental skills know no creative boundaries. With his excellent occupied Low Desert Punk Band, Bjork lets the scorching heat of Nevada shimmer in his songs. He also scrubs his guitar through all sorts of psychedelic effect pedals and skillfully mixes Stoner Rock, Blues and Doom-bonds to a feverish hazy brew. The Desert Rock Band has reached their oasis.


Every once in a while you will witness greatness from an artist in many a musical form; Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Vista Chino and of course a plethora of solo albums to date.  I am, to say the least a magnanimous fan of all of Brants’ work but none has captivated my auditory system as tightly and emotionally as his new release. From the first listen there was something different regarding this album. It was hard to put my musical pointer on it, as it has all of the pre cursors for an ultimate album.

Like a prize fighter coming out and landing combinations that let the other pugilist know a first round knockout is going to happen, even with the best defensive plan. Brant superbly and emotionally knocks your acoustic capabilities on their ass. I might be catching heat regarding this but I think this is the best piece, and by piece I am mean a whole musical body of magnitude and spiritual safari in his already amazing musical existence.  I believe that the reason this album is so relatable and contagious is due to one viable thing that gets overlooked in music, it is real. This a no gimmick, pro tools diluted, auto tuned, whatever else you want to say about the industry today. Brant not only plays the music on this album, he conveys that he believes in what he is singing and wants the listener to feel the power of the album.

Yes folks, this is an album that by my account, is Brant Bjork breaking free from any so-called genres or what he has done before. This sonic existence needs to be listened to with head phones on, or in a car, driving to air out the insanity of the day, or to just plain remember why music hits us spiritually, emotionally, and most of all, to let the rock roll.  Now, let’s get deep about the goods shall we?

First song on the album ‘Controllers Destroyed’ does that. It has a Sabbath-esque intro and outro that lets you know fundamentally, the album will be hitting deep. The chorus of the song really grabbed me as the dual vocals sound impeccable and you could sing along with them anywhere. Brant is piping out, “We made a better world for you and me.”  There is an erratic but powerful solo to be found on the track, and the bass is the cement in the mix. This song starts the musical journey and it never looks back. I get the feeling Brant, couldn’t give a fuck who is in the rear view mirror.

Second song is, ‘We Don’t Serve Their Kind, which is encapsulated by sick riffs and dual guitars that have a very tight sound. In terms of fuzz, tonality can get lost in the mix, but here it floats like a nice morning fog, introducing a new and powerful day. The chorus and vocals on this tune are really strong. I feel Brants’ singing on every track is the best I have heard but this number stood out to me. Brant is singing, “Created our world.” we are treated to very emotive vernacular from a strong wordsmith. I also totally dug the breakdown which incorporates a nice solo.  Rolling in at number three is, ‘Stokely Up Now’ and the beginning is rather fuzzalicious and flows into a boogie head bopping groove. The delay/echo at the end of the line before the chorus is brilliant. Thus followed by a sing along chorus; “Get off now.” There is a great panning session into the right speaker and then it comes together with a really solid c section with a tremendous groove and Brant letting us know again, “Get off now.”

We are then treated to ‘Buddha Time’. This song has everything needed to turn you into a Brant Bjork fan. Reason being, Superb guitar work, in which the fuzz is so goddam good. Trust me; getting your tone is something that does not happen overnight. If you think so, go to guitar center grab a Les Paul off the shelf, get a few pedals, a cab and head and have at it. ‘Oh! You are still working on it. Yeah, what I thought’. The wall of guitars on this, sound so immensely huge, but the clarity shines through as the mix is one of perfection. The six strings are in complete control on this number but again, the listener is treated too a killer fucking chorus. We are talking, no bullshit, ear grabbing to the finest.

In number five, we are greeted with, and you can be the judge, but I found this to have a ZZ Top swagger. This, if you dig the ‘Top, comes as the biggest compliment I can give. I felt that the beginning of this song could have been rolling while Billy Gibbons was hitting the pavement in his Cadillac.  ‘Soldier of Love’, is for me lyrically the highlight of the album. It gets to the point but is also ambiguous. It is as if Brant is wearing his heart on his sleeve but has another shirt over the top of it and the end of the track, is really driving and is a complete feel good, Jack and Coke type of jam.

‘Boogie Woogie On Your Brain’ starts with really strong bass and great percussion. It‘s a really strong and aggressive vocal that doesn’t come across as being a tough guy, but hits you where you need to be hit. It has an incredible breakdown and the song ended with me really wanting more. If that’s not the sign of a good song then go back into your house, turn on Fox news and enjoy a D sand which.  If you dig the Band of Gypsies then number seven, ‘Ain’t no Runnin’, will put a smile on your face and a backbeat that is commonly referred to as Chicken Shack; as it is behind the beat but so funky. It has a really powerful soul groove in which if you stuck your hand on the speaker, the bones would shake n bake. The chorus is as thick as a milkshake and the bridge section has my favorite bass work on the album. The only complaint I had regarding this jam was that it was not long enough.

Number eight made me picture Bill Murray in Stripes as I was reading the song titles. I could see him yelling, “That’s the Fact Jack.” The clean guitar work brought me back to Brants’ early work. A nice clean wah sound, then the wall started to crumble as the fullness and richness of the guitars hopped in for a nice supporting role. The sound I dug on this track was the bass. It had that reggae tone, clean and bouncy. I wanted to ‘Lively Up Myself’, you dig?!!. Again it contains a really strong chorus which is true during the whole album.

If you dig jazz, then ‘Hustlers Blues’ will appeal to your earbuds, the intro hit that vein for me. The guitar has that nice clean single strum line and a nice trippy vocal effect. Don’t worry people, this is not something you would hear while waiting to get 5 pound of Boars Head turkey, rather cats that know and appreciate going from fuzz back into clean and how it is done the correct way.  The bridge on this tune really had me. It was a nice interplay of guitar work and had a hint of ‘Love Gun’, much slower by Kiss in the mix. I could be way off, but just what my ears were hearing at that moment in time.  This song has the ability to breathe and go straight into an ass kicker, a locomotive of bass and guitar, ‘choo choo’.

Which brings us to the last number on this rollercoaster of soul, jazz, funk, rock, and last but not least; dignified and spectacular music. ‘Where you From, Man’ sounded like a revved up CCR to me. With transistor vocals with really delicate minor chords, it truly hits a nerve for me. The music truly does the talking on this piece where vocally less is more.  Picture your favorite sandwich, if you do not like them, pretend you do. The guitars on this album are two wonderful baked pieces of bread. Then you add the tasty addition of vocals, bass, guitar solos, drums and what makes them fit so nicely together is the incredible vibe of this album.  You bite into that sandwich and flavor erupts and it is the best you ever had. That is what this album will not do to your taste buds but rather your eardrums. 

People forget that music is such an incredible healer and while listening to this album, for that time I forgot about pain and let the music heal my aches and pains. If only for a short time, but what else organically can give you that fix and still let you walk a fine line.  The spirituality of the album is one that should not be overlooked. It is in there folks, the way a great preacher can relate a sermon to the people in the room and leave no one out.  Dig it if you want too or just listen, but do yourself a favor and truly hear what Brant is saying on the tracks. It will do you and your mind some good. Who does not need that?

Like I said, I think this is the best album he has put out in his career, under any moniker. This is Brant at his finest, letting the rock roll and letting the listener take away a smile and piece of music that will be played for a long time.

Enjoy yourself and please marinate in this wonderful musical adventure to the brink and back.

This was a pleasure to review.

Words by: Marc Gaffney

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