- by Andy Brown Release Date:2012-03-19 Label: Thrill Jockey
White Hills' last album was a mighty 70-minute-long psychedelic masterpiece. Challenging and uncompromising, H-P1 mixed krautrock influences with stoner-rock riffs and tonnes of head-phone splitting noise. Frying on This Rock is a more direct record, a slimmed-down collection with the emphasis firmly on rocking out. I say this, yet White Hills can only be so straight-ahead; there're still a couple of near 15-minute-long, repetitive rock-beasts on here. Frying on This Rock condenses a lot of what's great about White Hills into a thoroughly satisfying 45 minute LP and in many ways would make an ideal starting point for anyone new to their mind-altering, heavy psychedelia.
The album opens with the most straight-ahead track I've heard them do; 'Pads of Light' comes on like Mudhoney circa Under a Billion Suns (a hugely underrated album). It's a fairly conventional rock tune in many ways; there are lyrics, a chorus and a nice space-rock solo. This isn't a criticism though, far from it; 'Pads of Light' is an insanely great song and a brilliant album opener too.
Next up, the repeat-rock of 'Robot Stomp'. With nearly 12 minutes of a brutally simple motoric, riff worship, the track defiantly edges towards their experimental side. Somehow, it doesn't feel as car-sick inducing as something like 'Paradise' from H-P1; 'Robot Stomp' seems more preoccupied with simply hammering you into submission with its powerfully heavy Krautrock rhythms.
It's followed by the pleasingly immediate 'You Dream, You See' - definitely more in line with 'Pads of Light' with the drawling, stoner-rock vocals returning and a rather fine solo making an appearance about halfway through. 'Song of Everything' starts with an addictively repetitive bassline and punishing drums with lyrics about "spreading your wings" and "flying away"; you can definitely hear the spirit of classic Sabbath in there.
It's the kind of music you wish Josh Homme would make. About halfway in, the whole song seems to ebb away into tranquil, chilled psychedelia, and when a voice starts talking about how "the universe sings" you realise you've inadvertently walked straight into a Funkadelic track. Despite the obvious differences between the two acts, White Hills could certainly align themselves with that great tradition of rebellion that Funkadelic were central to in the 70s. High praise I know, but White Hills are quickly becoming the stuff of underground legend.
'I Write a Thousand Letters (Pulp on Bone)' closes the album perfectly with a 15 minute psychedelic instrumental. Yet whereas H-P1 closed with its thunderous title track, 'I Write a Thousand Letters (Pulp on Bone)' is significantly more laid back. Cascading drums propel the track forwards as smooth synths interject the chaos with a kind of laid-back, jazz-rock vibe. There are some satisfying guitar freak-outs towards the end too. It's a wonderful piece of music and I'd highly recommend listening to it on headphones; puts a new spin on walking around Sainsbury's.
Overall, Frying on this Rock is a smoother, more easily digested listen than its sprawling predecessor but don't be fooled into thinking it's a straight-ahead rock record either. White Hills have managed to balance their love of riffs and rock music with their thirst for experimentation perfectly, and it's hard to imagine a more satisfying psych-rock record coming out this year.