The fact that “The Warlocks” is a name used by early incarnations of both The Velvet Underground and The Grateful Dead seems to make it an appropriate appellation to the band which produced the Phoenix EP, which sounds very much like The Velvet Underground’s noise and distortion tactics reimagined as jam band material. What’s lacking, however, is any innovative or imaginative use of the feedback which they are so fond of. At its best, this EP sounds like the sort of sonic mess The Smashing Pumpkins liked to put at the end of songs, only at length, and without the song to preface it.
It may be unfair to judge The Warlocks merely by the Phoenix EP, which is all I’ve been given to review. It appears to only contain one song. The rest is feedback, of varying tempo and intensity. Which is, y’know, cute, and something I can tolerate in an EP or a single provided that there’s an album to go with it. But since I don’t have the album (which is also titled Phoenix) that goes with it, I really don’t have much of an idea of how the Warlocks really sound. What I’m being presented with could easily just be their B-sides, their leftovers, and the meat of the band may be on their full-length recording. “Baby Blue,” the first track of the EP, is also on the album, and it shows signs of structure and ability that – who knows? – might just blossom in the tracks included in the LP. However, “Stone Heart,” a seven-minute track that, for all I could listen to, sounded like droning, repetitive, monotonous feedback (which is pretty much what the entire EP, aside from parts of “Baby Blue,” sounded like), makes me think that the EP isn’t entirely unrepresentative of The Warlocks’ ouvere. I think it was during “Stone Heart” that the EP put me to sleep for the first time. The incessant mash of fuzz and distortion into nothing recognizable as rhythm or melody just became a drone of a lullaby. After the beginning of the disc, there were very few identifiable lyrics, and the music itself did nothing to hold my attention. Seeing as the band proclaims themselves as one with The Velvet Underground, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and The Stooges (to name a few of their declared influences), I doubt that was the intended effect.
The seemingly endless feedback may interest some, and perhaps there is an artistry to it that my untrained ear has failed to hear. For me personally, as a listener (which is, of course, the only way I can honestly review anything) it was only boring, and nothing else. In a music world that has already had The Velvet Underground and all that came after it, the simplistic fashion in which The Warlocks play with feedback has nothing new about it, nothing interesting, and acts, as their name almost implies, as if The Velvet Underground hadn’t existed yet, as if we were back in the ’60s, and this kind of thing could still be daring and evocative, instead of just another form of background noise.
Birdman Records: http://www.birdmanrecords.com