Having been a massive fan of the group since the day my hungover soul was BURNED by their bomber-style live assault at the All Tomorrow’s Parties NY fest a couple years back, forgive me a little bit of leeway in my championing of Dave W, Ego Sensation and company as one of the last defenders of RAWK, in all its stinking glory, that a regular guy or gal can really lay your trust AND your hard-earned greenbacks down on and get the real deal. No bullshit, just some goddamned hard shit, when you need it the most.
Across numerous 7-inches, EPs, albums and tapes, White Hills have (not so) quietly been amassing a discography that (forgive a little hyperbole) offers the full flowering, nay, the full realization of the best of 60s/70s rock in all of its glory. Not as some studied or throwback record-collecting-scum rock n’ roll, but the best blaring ‘fuck you’ to taste, decorum and sane volume that's been perpetrated since by the likes of Spacemen 3, Hawkwind or even prime Damned stalked the boards, lo so many years ago. But to reduce their efforts to some pithy comparisons to the above groups does not do this collective any justice. Their wide-screen vision of rock has the power to save, and through a few of their loin-lashing releases, let me explain why.
If you wanna get your shit sorted quick, the best place to start has got to be the Collisions Volume 1 split with the UK's droopiest maniacs, The Heads. “I Will Find Peace Of Mind” is one of the towering peaks in their ever-expanding catalogue of nod hits. Sheets of distortion play hide-and-seek with the rhythm section like a midnight shell game till the whole track explodes in gold-tinged hell (“Fire! Burn! / I Need To Get Out!”). Collapsing inwards can be a very hard thing to do, a scientist friend once told me, and listening to this jam, I believe it.
“Three Quarters” is THE song, well known to the converts. Available on a multitude of formats and versions, the DEAD one being one of the best but the Roadburn live album just a little bit more so, demons flying out of the amps, ON AND ON, ON AND ON, till that glorious riff saves everyone, no-one left behind, we are all included in the mass exodus to the sun, the stars, fuck, anywhere better than HERE. So gone, so free and you know what? there ain't no coming home again.
Which brings us to the new slab, Frying On This Rock, courtesy of the fine folks at Thrill Jockey. “Pads of Light” flies out of the gate VERY nicely, Antronhy’s synths flow like a mo-fo over Nick's blasts and you realize that this band is tight. The thing that surprised me about this track is its brevity; nothing wasted and it makes way for “Robot Stomp.” It could be their take on a Can groove, but I would consider it more a realized studio version of a live jam with engineer Martin Bisi giving some nice shapes to the madness. Rounding out side one is “You Dream You See,” a burnt wall of riffage that melts out across the floor with the kind of bleary-eyed star-gazing Monster Magnet used to be able to pull off in their sleep. Some hot game here.
Moving on over to side two, “Song of Everything” continues in the MM vein and bleeds into delayed, panned vocals declaiming hypnotic mantras over some Garcia-like choogle before the main riff comes crashing back in, setting things up for “I Write a Thousand Letters (Pulp on Bone),” which takes up the rest of side two and is definitely one of their crowning achievements to date. Rawk as pure, atmospheric rumble and awe that can conjure alien landscapes, basements lost in the mists of time, the musical equivalent of Italian director supremo Michaelangelo Antonioni's experiments with pace and colour (The Red Desert, Zabriskie Point, Blow Up, etc.), a kind of beautiful stasis. The keyboard stabs that rise in and out of the mix WILL take you away. Hang some goddamn medals around their necks; this warrants a ceremony! or two...
So I think you get where I'm coming from. If you park your car even remotely near the location I'm describing, it's time to get out, take a walk and look to the stars. They're looking real good tonight.
Record DetailsReleased: 2012
Record Label: Thrill Jockey