Current Vista Chino vocalist, former Kyuss member and desert rocker John Garcia has finally released his eponymous debut solo disc. This 11-track romp has plenty to offer the fan of good ol’ American rock and roll, particularly flavored with a “stoner” edge. He’s enlisted fellow partner in crime (and Queens of the Stone Age alumnus) Nick Oliveri on bass guitar, so at the very least, without even breaking the shrink wrap, a listener is assured to be treated to some muscular bass chops. The record, planned and written for at least a couple years prior to release, has a nice thick sound, with weight given to kick drum and bass guitar. Even the photo-illustrated album cover, depicting a bighorn sheep against a desert landscape, reminds listeners to the roots of the disc. Not excessively “analog” (“trendy”), the songs offer a fresh look at what could be called a quintessential American vibe and sound.
Musically, it’s not really boat-rocking original, but these days, how much (outside of fringe genres like progressive rock, fusion, free jazz, and instrumental rock) is? It’s ENJOYABLE. And it’s cohesive, it’s consistent. What a listener might expect, but won’t find in spades, is the “robot rock” mechanical staccato repetition so prevalent in bands like Kyuss or Queens. This leaves plenty of space for original expression – and it’s really nice to hear a band putting an original spin on good ol’ rock and roll. Tunes range from a mellow modern rock (“My Mind”) to nostalgic for the 1970s (“Rolling Stoned”) to desert rock (“Flower”). Each song has a new perspective to offer. Uptempo and dynamic, “All These Walls” is short, sweet, and a tour-de-force of what put desert rock on the map. The album’s closer, “Her Bullets Energy”, features no drums and some acoustic guitar.
Musicianship overall comes across as adequate, not showy – competent, professional players who are playing to serve the songs, not show off their prowess. Fans of well-performed music without the alpha-male virtuosity element are going to really love this – especially evident in tunes like “5000 Miles”. That’s not to say that the songs don’t have their fun quirks: check out the great tempo downshift during “Argleben”, or the near-psychedelic vibe of “Confusion”. Lyrics seem to revolve around inner dialogue or self-talk – nice to experience in a landscape so permeated with escapist fantasy. While Garcia set a precedent for his vocal performance in his former (and concurrent) bands, what stands out easily here is the vocal performance itself. Garcia commands a good range and an excellent command of his voice that brings some ‘ownership’ to the songs.
A relative criticism, recalling that this is a debut from an experienced musician, is that the songs seem fairly bland. They’re not really frisson-inducing, heart-pounding fare, but they don’t have to be! This is nice, because it offers the promise of musical growth and expansion in the future. Despite a versatile, good vocal range, Garcia chooses to use distortion effects on his vocal for around half the album. Good vocalists are rare, and there’s an implied confidence for a vocalist’s solo debut; don’t hide that talent.
Featuring a guest appearance from The Doors‘ Robby Krieger, John Garcia’s solo debut album is easy to assimilate, fun to listen to, and solid. A nice addition to a “back tracking” discography collection as well as a forward-looking one, it’s recommended for fans of American, desert rock and roll. Fairly energetic and consistent, the songs offer some introspection – from ‘chill’ to insistent, fresh listens, nostalgia, and perspectives. As an added plus, it’s available on vinyl for a hardcore collector!
His Bullets Energy
All These Walls
Her Bullets Energy