With a cast of infamous characters that reads like a short who’s who of the California desert rock scene, Mojave Lords are a lake of fire indeed. Featuring core members David Catching, Kevin Richey, Brian O’Connor, and Joey Castillo, the band has released an aggressive ten song debut, neologically dubbed Unfuckwithable.
Unfuckwithable shines right away with it’s attitude: it’s got that same ‘untouchable’ charm that seeped alongside every note on albums like Appetite For Destruction. It’s unquestionably a hard rock disc, not over-thought, and with no real excess (although some of the “one note solo” type guitar snobs might eschew some of the song endings). Masculine and muscular rock, it does have some hip swing and swagger, and power is the name of the game here.
Mojave Lords also created a disc jam-packed with monster riffs. Not overly complex, many are real crushers. The opening tune and first single, “Sweet Little Down & Out”, encapsulates this within it’s first minute: a deadly robotic underpinning coupled to a wailing lead, that works just as well in this context as it did for bands like Megadeth (“Peace Sells, But Who’s Buying”) or Queens of the Stone Age (“The Blood Is Love”). Overall, the choppy, rhythmic, near-hypnotic riffing holds a listener’s immediate attention. The songs delve less in to the loose, psychedelic ‘jam band’ territory then some desert rock.
Each of the Mojave Lords songs features different tones and sonic variety, but overall the presentation is pretty homogeneous: fairly relaxed to mid-tempo grooves, monster hooks, reasonably melodic, burly rock and roll. The grungy, unquestionably American, smoking hot rocker “Second Skin” ought to get crowds really moving. Kevin “Bingo” Richey’s pleasant, unquestionably masculine, deep, smooth vocals are delivered throughout. As the exception to every rule, “Dancefloor Slammer” has some 70s disco revival styled falsetto.
Lyrics are very rhythmic (near quasi-rap in “Knuckles” and “A Whole New World”), sung ice cold for the most part, rendering them attitudinal and convincing. This is a very guitar-forward disc without being in any way “shreddy”. It’s more along the lines of earlier ZZ Top where the song’s structure is most respected and important. Wailing stabs and lead guitar textures in “Sage” bring your basic rock groove to the forefront. Bass guitar is not buried throughout, which is fantastic to hear. Brian O’Connor’s driving bass lines are what makes the song truly “jump” in at least two cases: “Sweet Little Down & Out” and “Microwave Me Baby”. Unfuckwithable has very little in the way of synth or keyboards – but what is present is readily apparent. Without a track by track performance credit list, it’s not really possible to tell who’s drumming (or who’s playing lead guitar) on what songs, so, take an educated guess. There are at least two distinct “drum kit tones” on the disc, so there seems to have been little effort to make all four percussionists sound ‘as one’. That’s not a bad thing: individuality is fantastic to witness.
Unfuckwithable‘s mix is raw and unconstrained. It’s more of a lo-fi, deliberately laissez-faire presentation; it’s not unbalanced. Especially with the drums, a listener feels like they’re standing right next to the kit, listening to the tones as they roll off the drum heads, untouched by digital overproduction. That pervasive, deliberate “near demo” attitude is part of the disc’s charm. It’s also not excessively loud – it’s impact is in songwriting and arrangement, not trying to win the “volume war”. If anything, it could use a little polish (ex: the volume jumps in to “Knuckles” from “Second Skin” and from “Sage” to “Unfuckwithable” are a little distracting) and, unless the roughness is deliberate, a little work on a few song endings. The high-velocity guitar solo fade outs are appreciated and excellent. Storied Rancho De La Luna dispenses with some production “finery” to expel acidic venom into the desert.
Here are some comparative notes by fellow PlanetMosh reviewer Louise Swift: “On first listen, I thought of The Dandy Warhols; nothing specific, just a general similarity. I have only hear one album of theirs anyway – Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia. [Mojave Lords seems] a kind of eclectic mix of The Dandy Warhols, Nirvana, and Soungarden, with a few other elements thrown in here and there. “Hot Throwaway” started a bit Robert Palmer “Addicted to Love”, and then went in the direction of ZZ Top. Although, having seen the video to “Sweet Little Down & Out”, I think the beards made me have to find some similarity to ZZ Top, even if it was subliminal! My favourite track was “Anytime Rock” with it’s Kinks‘ “You Really Got Me” beat running throughout. “Dancefloor Slammer” had me thinking of Prince‘s (or should that be Symbol‘s) “Raspberry Beret”. “A Whole New World” I found a bit tedious, [perhaps] Aerosmith‘s “Rag Doll” meets Shaved Women‘s “World of Change”, and although I like the former, the latter is monotonous. However, I rarely like every single track on an album, and despite that, this had an interesting mix of flavours to get you teeth, or rather ears, into!”
Unfuckwithable would be a great addition to a desert rock, hard rock, or “driving music” collection. Catchy, hard-edged, and sensual, if that’s their “Hot Throwaway”, you wonder what their ‘Hot Keeper’ must be… building anticipation for a future release perhaps? Mojave Lords just might be unstoppable.
Sweet Little Down & Out
Microwave Me Baby
A Whole New World
Band (Studio) Lineup:
David Catching – Guitars, Bass, Synth
Kevin Bingo Richey – Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Synth
Brian O’Connor – Guitars, Bass, Drums, Backing Vocals
Barrett Martin – Drums
Joey Castillo – Drums
Danny Frankel – Drums
Chris Goss – Backing Vocals
Sven Altmetz – Backing Vocals