Brant Bjork And The Bros Somera Sol
Grade: 4 stars
Worshippers of the California sun, hot rods, Black Sabbath and marijuana, Fu Manchu has blazed a stoner-rock trail similar to that of Kyuss and its progeny, Queens Of The Stone Age, for a lot longer than it takes to pimp anybody's ride.
Feeling more California and the beach in the '70s than Kyuss' "high in the desert" aesthetic, Fu Manchu, established in the early '90s, always plows straight ahead with its fuzz-toned, metallic riffs and drugged-out tempos, finding as much meaning in a paean to muscle cars as U2 does in trying to save the world.
With The Bros, guitarist/vocalist Brant Bjork steps out of the Fu Manchu van on Somera Sol to cook up a heavy, dark brand of psychedelia and greasy ? think truck-stop diner greasy ? blues influenced by early ZZ Top and other classic rock icons.
The best example of which is the wah-wah, pedal-soaked, Hendrix-style shred of "Ultimate Kickback."
Whatever detour he takes from Fu Manchu, it's not a total 180-degree shift. This is thick groove-rock still shrouded in pot smoke, even if ideas and jams are more stretched out and dynamic on "Shine Communication" and "The Native Tongue."
On the other hand, opener "Turn Yourself On" and its follow-up, "Love Is Revolution," lock into the kind of tight-fisted, mesmerizing grooves that make Fu Manchu such a well-oiled machine.
Less laid-back, with more texture and often more interesting sonic diversions, Somera Sol sees Bjork branching out musically and exploring lyrical themes that don't involve cars or girls.
The political and social observations of "Love Is Revolution" and the anti-war rumble "Chinarosa" show there is more going on in Bjork's head than dreams of drag racing. And "Oblivion," a dense rave-up that rocks as fast as anything Bjork has ever conceived of, tells the story of losers caught in a downward spiral they can't escape.
Joined by Kyuss/Queens Of The Stone Age drummer and percussionist Alfredo Hernandez, Fatso Jetson guitarist/vocalist Mario Lalli, and vocalist Sean Wheeler, as well as regular Bros Dylan Roche (bass) and Cortez (guitar), Somera Sol indicates that Bjork's vision is coming into clearer focus with The Bros.
Even if it isn't quite the fun, trippy drive down the Pacific Coast Highway ? while smoking a joint, of course ? that Fu Manchu provides, Somara Sol proves that Bjork is still the king of the road.