By The Warlocks
What's the usual form for a band releasing their fifth long player, taking into account a dwindling public profile and a forthcoming tour of ever more 'intimate' venues? A change of direction? Gimmickery? A high profile electro remix? Well, frankly, the Warlocks are possibly about as likely to reinvent themselves as the Fall is of doing an operetta or iLiKETRAiNS going disco. An ominous crescendo of chugging guitars within two seconds of the start of track one, signals the beginning of another album bringing more of the same. Cue thick waves of dry ice and the departure of anyone who hadn't already been won over by their previous output.
This is, of course, not a bad thing per se. I happen to have a soft spot for the eerie drone purveyed by these gloomy L.A. fuzz merchants, and I could probably take several more releases like this without giving up on them. The only slight reservation I have about this latest slice of brooding noise is that, like much of its predecessor (2007's 'Heavy Deavy Skull Lover'), it seems set to a relentlessly slow tempo. Gone are the great emotional surges of tracks like 'Shake the Dope Out' or 'It's Just Like Surgery' that punctuated their earlier catalogue.
So, whilst there may be little to rock out to here, as a whole it's an accomplished mood piece that dares to offer a couple of minimalist gems amongst the wailing. The extremely sparse 'There is a Formula to Your Despair' tiptoes like Yo La Tengo at their most restrained, whilst 'You Make Me Wait' and album closer 'Static Eyes' master the slow build (albeit without ever quite capturing the ecstatic climax for which one might hope). In between there are few out-and-out misses, although the meandering, and slightly uninspiring, white noise of the appropriately titled 'Frequency Meltdown' comes close. Listening to an untuned radio might've been only marginally less rewarding.
'Standing Between The Lovers Of Hell' is as close as we get to a classic Warlocks crowd-pleaser (if there's not something slightly oxymoronic in that phrase). This is the sort of sound that turned people onto tracks like 'Isolation' when the millennium was still young. In general terms, therefore, maybe this is a band that have actually evolved over that time - even if not totally in ways which I'd have chosen. This is not to detract from a solid album, however, and one destined to soundtrack a few late nights at home; at least round at my dingy bolt-hole, if not at the elegant pad of your average big spender at HMV.