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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bong

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bong

by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor
first published: March, 2005

approximate reading time: minutes

The throbbing heart, the transcendent pulse, the whirlwind whether it be summoned by a busted acoustic guitar or austere chamber ensemble, it was that groove that got me.

Dead Meadow
(Matador Records)

I once had a friend who was a much bigger music geek than I ever was or will be. Where I had my 2000+ vinyl albums (this was back when vinyl was on the way out and was not quite the fetish object it has become now) arranged by category in special crates I made my self, he had his 20,000 albums arranged in special crates he had made. I thought I'd have a rare new wave album and he'd have it on 8-track as well. Basically, I could not compete, so I gleefully would accept any music fan wisdom he would offer up until he presented his expanded concept of psychedelic music. Now he had actually been a hippie back then, so he had some authority on the subject, but my anachronistic post-punk orthodoxy would not accept his hypothesis that Public Enemy and Public Image Ltd were just as psychedelic as anything by Strawberry Alarm Clock. It infuriated me. Fucking hippie, why do you have to turn everything into yet another bong hit justification for your collapsed star of a youth culture? Your phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust, "brother." Really, I was in my idealistic angry drinking twenties, so this kind of thing was nearly a deal-breaker for our friendship.

Later on, many years hence, I went to a party where he was the DJ and he segued from some Primal Scream neo boogie workout, to a buttery hot Isaac Hayes jam, into Can's "Hallelujah" off Tago Mago, without a single art-student-flopsy coed leaving the steamy Louisiana garage-cum-dancefloor. It was then I realized he was right - psychedelic was something more than the window dressing on music I secretly liked but wouldn't admit to, it was the floorboards of nearly all the music I really loved, and still love. The throbbing heart, the transcendent pulse, the whirlwind whether it be summoned by a busted acoustic guitar or austere chamber ensemble, it was that groove that got me. I realized I really preferred the Roll over the Rock. I started to see it everywhere, in the rattle of The Fall, the bee-swarm of Anthony Braxton, the plate tectonics of Steve Riech, and thus opened my heart up to psychedelic rock.

Dead Meadow, a quartet of heavy dude rockers based outta the capitol of our great nation of garage rock supergods, epitomize and successfully revive the psychedleia of my youth: The echo chamber of Bongwater and the strafing run delayed guitar solos of My Bloody Valentine, where they've all ready hit you before you know you heard them. Early on in their career, they got the stamp of modern psychedelic approval from Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre (and now the movie DiG!) who released a live album for the Meadow on his own label. Since then they have continually honed their Kosmik chops into becoming a fire breathing hydra of Rawk.

The opening salvo, "Let's Jump In" does that with it s knucklehead Sabbath riff at the get-go and swaths of glacial guitar drifting between thine ears as the singer intones whatever he is saying. The pace picks up slightly on numbers like "Suck Hawks and such Hounds" but the hazy sonic fog continually surrounds you in the best possible way. At first the album sounds slooooooow, but as you listen further, it draws you into its own pace, where there are rocks to be sat upon and flowers to be examined, and smoke on the horizon to ponder. This is not the faux Stoner Rock of Queens of the Stone Age (which sounds more like meta-metal to me) but the window to the infinite that only copious effects pedals can provide. Their melodic strengths shine on the most-BJm-like "At Her Open Door" and the echoed delicious acoustic guitar ramble of "Stacy's Song." True to beautiful form, the album ends with a protracted drum track leading into the 13 minute roam in the fields of Silver Door, where you get to experience the extended workout that comes from this kind of music. This not the bloodless jam band fodder that oft is the hallmark of neo hippie music, but haunting majestic powerful stuff, a hazy icebreaker cutting through the permafrost of your day to proclaim this land in the name of Blowing Your Mind.

Alex V. Cook
Music Editor

Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v
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