What Did He Say?
Veteran psychedelic rock act The Warlocks have joined with independent label Cleopatra Records for their latest full-length offering Songs from the Pale Eclipse. Awash with clean guitars drenched in reverb and tremolo, the album is ambient, laidback and expansive. Perhaps the most striking and unique feature is founder and bandleader Bobby Hecksher’s almost comically hushed, dreary vocals, which cast a decidedly sullen shadow over an otherwise lively musical landscape.
The album’s second track and lead single “Lonesome Bulldog” includes all the aforementioned ingredients that make up The Warlocks’ particular blend of gloomy psychedelic rock. Hecksher sings almost unintelligibly, slurring depressing phrases like “nothing to eat, nothing to drink, no one to love, no one to talk to”. A chorus of clean guitars forms the rhythmic backbone while a simple, melodic riff drives the track forward, building steadily into a big, fuzzy instrumental outro. Opening track “Only You” shows plenty of potential with driving, industrial guitars and drums; unfortunately, Hecksher’s absurdly quiet vocals again can only be described as silly by comparison.
“Dance Alone” stands out as a refreshing change from fairly repetitive material. Resembling a ’60s pop/folk song and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, watery wah guitar, supplemented by acoustic and electric rhythm guitars, creates a lush yet spacious verse texture. Hecksher’s vocals work in the chorus, enhanced by subtle harmonies. “We Took All the Acid” is one of the album’s more chaotic, static songs. Comprised of dirty, grinding bass, drone-like feedback and a healthy dose of clean guitar modulation, it highlights the band’s ability to mix disparate sounds into a cohesive whole. Unrelenting, shimmery feedback is a clever way for the band to morph almost imperceptibly into a colorful instrumental finale and holds the listener in a convincing, dreamlike head-space.
The angsty “Love is a Disease” is deceptively upbeat, driven forward by keyboards and energetic drum fills. Hovering sheepishly over the ’80s emo/new wave-esque song, the quiet vocals and somber lyrics manage to fit. While slow and similarly depressing, final track “The Arp Made Me Cry” ends the album on a high note with cool, retro synthesizers and massive, flange guitars combining for an interesting, effective arrangement.
The Warlocks’ Songs from the Pale Eclipse is perplexing and frustrating. Creative instrumentals, decent melodies and convincing song structure provide an easy layup that Hecksher’s lackluster, uninspired vocal performance unfortunately manages to miss frequently. Nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable psychedelic rock album that is ambient without being objectionably repetitive.