Since its origins in the mid 1960’s, psychedelic rock sought to transcend the boundaries of everyday experience through songcraft, effects, and instrumentation. The song-album became a vehicle for the trip, a musical journey, a sonic story, bending the familiar qualities of narrative to reveal universal human truths. From the Pretty Things to Pink Floyd to Radiohead, successive waves of artists have explored, transformed, and innovated this now classic – sacred – genre of rock. Today, the LA-based Warlocks, tend the fire of this most holy of rock temples – the psych rock imprint: the concept album.
Behold: The Chain, the ninth studio release from Bobby Hecksher and his mighty Warlocks. Behold you must, for this is truly a great rock ‘n’ roll album. With perfect production from Rob Campanella (BJM, Quarter After), The Chain arrived April 3rd on Cleopatra Records, straight outta the Committee to Keep Music Evil’s Silver Lake studio. And the Warlocks have emerged, triumphant, color vinyl in hand. Your choice: silver or purple.
Your new vinyl is The Chain, a 41-minute concept album, that explores 21st Century crime and justice to the driving beat of easy-access, velvet space-kraut. This is what you do: Carefully slice the cellophane sleeve to reveal a concise rock ‘n’ roll narrative that bubbles and broods in tidy, 4-minute, mooged-out, guitar snapshots. The Warlocks weave a strident tale that skids through the pre-COVID sprawl in a spray of gravel smoke and jangle-fuzz. Each song, distinct, The Chain, perfectly linked, swings and clangs toward an anthemic resolution.
The Chain’s opener is “Dear Son”. The song idles with rising, swirling tension that begins side A’s downward slide into crime. “The Robbery” echoes with Floydian Moog-tones over the rising tension of drummer, Anchondo’s punchy snare and double-time shaker. “Mr. Boogeyman” features the Warlocks’ characteristic buzzsaw drone and organ-tones. The height of Side A, “Double Life”, echoes with surfing tremolo. “Double Life” is a gem — a driving, pure rocker with soaring, layered solos, accenting its grooving immediacy. “We Don’t Need Money” buzzes and grinds down as the narrator drifts into despair. His only ballast: rock ‘n’ roll.
Quickly flip the vinyl for “You Stooge You”, a droning, effects-laden, kraut-psych classic. “Sucking out your Soul like a Son of a Bitch” has a jarring lead; however, its true mark is the narrator’s prison-bound mantra: “Don’t make me move/I don’t want to move”. Hecksher’s mourning, gentle, acoustically driven “Have Mercy on Me” and “Feel no Pain/You Hurt Me” float and ring with perfect phased-out effects. The lyrics ensconce the listener, the cellmate, his confidant. “I’m not Good Enough/Party like We Used to” trumpets the rising, rollicking conclusion of The Chain. It also numbers as one of the Warlocks’ greatest songs in their impressive 20 year cannon. At only four minutes, this song begs you to join the characters, arms entwined, shoulder-to-shoulder, in their beer-soaked resolution. Crisis and record resolved; you are certain to join the Warlocks in chorus: “Beers on me! Beers on you! Let’s party like we used to!”
Speaking of beer, with The Chain, the Warlocks are once again the toast of the modern psych underground. Yet, to their denim-clad, rock ‘n’ roll devotees, the greatness of the Warlocks is not a surprise. For over 20 years, the Warlocks have filled college airwaves and cool-whip hangouts with their driving brew of kraut-laced psychedelia. The Chain ensures that, despite our new age of social and moral distancing, The Warlocks have the concept and prescription: Buy the record, needle down, and turn up the hi-fi. Raise your beer and ride The Chain, start to finish.