www.runnerrag.ca | The Runner
vol. 4 issue 01 | September 13 2011 | page nineteen
Vinyl Dust-off: Kyuss’ Blues for the Red Sun I
LLIAM EASTERBROOK SENIOR FEATURES WRITER
Kyuss lives! At least that’s what news headlines said in early 2010. And after ripping up Australia and Europe last year under the pseudo name “Kyuss Lives!” — the influential stoner rock outfit from Palm Desert, CA, brings their nasty brand of sludge to North America for their first continental tour in fifteen years. Even though guitarist Josh Homme is currently on tour with his band Queens of the Stone Age (opening up for the newly reformed Soundgarden), Kyuss Lives! has still managed to receive glowing reviews, selling out small venues in numerous cities overseas. Kyuss Lives! comes to Vancouver’s own Commodore Ballroom Sept. 23. But lets back things up a bit, shall we? Lets go back to early Kyuss — before they “lived” again, and take a look at a hidden gem in the gravel pit of stoner rock. From the dustbowl of garage rock from whence it came circa 1992, this is Blues for the Red Sun, Kyuss’ second full length LP. The sound that is Kyuss is as grimy as the muck in
your tire well, as gritty as a set of busted premolars and as frenetic as an unregulated public lynching. It’s everything you want in an underproduced hard rock album, and more. Consisting of guitarist Josh Homme, bassist Nick Oliveri, drummer Brant Bjork and vocalist John Garcia, Kyuss takes its name from Dungeons and Dragons — more specifically from the demigod Kyuss, whose powers re-
gard creation, and who serves as the master of the undead. On “Blues” songs like “Thong Song” and “Freedom Run” showcase the bands innovative sound, heavy and slow, while producer Chris Goss captures the rawness of a band having found its form. For his guitar sound Homme uses a bass amp to feed his down-tuned guitar into, creating a heavy and distorted tone and riffs that form what one reviewer called “post-Hendrix guitar flurries.” Garcia screams, “I don’t need a séance/ I hate slow songs/ . . . my hair is real long,” on the aforementioned “Thong Song,” showing a tongue in cheek irony about the band itself (the song is abysmally slow trodden). Overall the album is one big gurgle from the throat: more bravado than reservation, more go-for-broke and fast, than anything else — the way they want it. On Blues for the Red Sun, Kyuss kicks your ass. It’s one loud sonic ass kicking after another; but it’s not always fast — no no — sometimes it comes on slow — dirgy — like the stomp of a large Doc Martin to an undefended ribcage. But then they quicken the assault and beat you into a strange kind of catatonic listening psychosis. So, after making my aural trip to the California desert to get my ass kicked by Kyuss, I felt like I had to take a trip to the goddamned hospital. I felt like I had to salve and bandage my wounds. I felt I’d best find a way to prepare for my next trip out to the freedom run of the desert.
Spin that black circle... I
LLIAM EASTERBROOK SENIOR FEATURES WRITER
The resurgence of vinyl is a trend that is seemingly here to stay; its prevalence in mainstream culture in the post 2000’s is not merely a puzzling and ridiculous fad like auto tune. Vinyl is somewhat of an anomaly of our age; it hasn’t been the leading technological extent in sound — as far as convenience and innovation are concerned — since the mid 60’s. And unlike, say, the 8-track player or compact disc — both having reigned in the limelight of technology’s reach for their time respectively, but have since wilted and vanished — vinyl remains. And even though a record player is awkward and, more or less, moored to your living room, the allure of spinning vinyl has ripened for new generations, remaining unique in its antiquity and in the superiority of analog sound. Further, the resurgence of vinyl isn’t merely the relic of some hipster craze vintage artifacts; it is a cherished sacrament for the musically inclined, and the only analog anti-
pode to the tawdry ipod era. The continuation of vinyl, as a sought after and cherished medium to play and mix music, has, and will endure, simply because it is tangible, more organic and fallible than artificial and perfect; it is something real in an increasingly unreal world. It endures as a symbol of the human resisting the inhuman. The humanity of vinyl is reflected in its ritual. Every time you select a vinyl record — digging its album art, the size, the clarity of the image — and pull the slick black disc (never in remiss) from its sleeve, fit it to the turntable, position the needle above, and drop it down oh so gently; it is in every turn, every note, every nuance, every time you drop that needle, that you are literally scraping the music from the surface grooves of the vinyl, and essentially killing that record very, very, very slowly. Just like the poet Keats said in Ode to a Nightingale, a meditation on creation and the mortality of human life, Where youth grows pale, and spectre–thin, and dies; Where but to think is to be full of sorrow And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow. Vinyl has a dichotomous life: the life of the album, its musical duration; but also its life in a mortal or bodily sense. Like everything in life and the universe, nothing is static; nothing endures; everything is constantly changing, growing, thriving, withering, dying. Playing a vinyl record places the listener in a finite romance with the music, a romance that is ultimately as forlorn as our own mortality. Some say art is a function of our intellect with the underlying intention of confirming our own existences in a universe that is destined to forget us. The vinyl record shares our futility; it is a small symbol representing a larger attempt by humanity to confirm existence through art, creation, and the human imagination, not because it lives only to die, but because it dies just a little more every time it lives. The reason vinyl endures in this technological age, then, is because the human spirit endures. And because the scraping spin of a record player enchants the listener a hell of a lot more than the dull, synthetic glow of an iPod.
Published on Sep 20, 2011