The Warlocks - Phoenix

by Bob Coyne Rating: Release Date:2003-07-14

Phoenix, the second album from gaunt Los Angeles acid-rockers the Warlocks, is unashamedly retro and derivative, but that doesn't stop it from being a sleazy blast of the first order. It displays a legacy that begins with the Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground, pierces the dark hearts of the Jesus and Mary Chain and Spacemen 3, and ends up right here at "Shake the Dope Out"--a rowdy relative of "Sister Ray" with fulsome honky-tonk rock & roll trimmings adorning its bare-bones chug.

Phoenix is heavy with signatures borrowed from the past, yet somehow reborn anew: frontman Bobby Hecksher has perfected his abrasive Jagger drawl for "Hurricane Heart Attack", while "Cosmic Let Down" turns up the droning resonance of Laura Grisby's space-rock keyboard until it churns the guts. But the key hallmark is surely the band's sturdy, two-drum rhythm section, who strike up a trippy mid-tempo pace, before ebbing and flowing through all number of hypnotic permutations of psychedelic sound. Still, just when you're worrying Phoenix is lost forever in a hallucinogenic torpor, you'll happen upon the sitar-accompanied bubblegum pop of "Baby Blue", Hecksher singing sweetly of "disco bars and cool guitars", hitting each note with a golden clarity--and you'll conclude that sometimes, they do write rock & roll tunes like they used to. --Louis Pattison

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