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Solarized | Driven | review | stoner | rock | Lollipop
by Craig Regala
OK, since the slant of this magazine is pretty much the loud guitar stuff, I can split some hairs vis a vis what kinda ore this rock was mined from. Solarized follows the hard rock shaft pretty goddamn far into the land where hard-ass garage hunch supernova'd through the Detroit Stooges/MC5/Frijid Pink/Grand Funk quad, rather than the Sabbath/Uriah Heep/Deep Purple path many hundreds of worthies have trodden. As you notice, this leaves the Blue Cheer/Zep acid howl blues up for grabs, and just as you may've thought, these guys grab a handful of that too.
Driven is a bit less wah-ridden and has more power chord mid-range punch than their previous slice, Neanderthal Speedway. "More nuts in the fudge," as my mom used to say. Not that I like it better; I like all sorts of guitar stroke/whiffle, and maybe the difference is as much the rhythm and pacing. So say Neanderthal... is the "jammy" record and this one is the "tune powerhog" one. At times, Driven roars like a meth-fueled gearhead with nothin' but The Sex Pistols, The Damned, Mudhoney, and Screaming Trees records in the deck (yeah, they cover Mr. Varney's all-time favorite Damned tune, "Stab Yr Back"). They also kick into "Fu Manchu as Jersey teen" mode convincingly. The heaviness is supplied by the blues-rooted trudge all those hard rockers mined from primary (Muddy Waters/Elmore James, etc.), and secondary (The Who, Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, Cream, etc.) sources. Another band capable of handling Rory Gallager and UK Subs covers. How about "Cross Me Off Your List" and "Party in Paris" respectively?
Well, are they, uh, retro? Their tools are the traditional two guitars, bass, drums, and the rhythms and riffs are pretty standard, but I don't see 'm as "reviving" anything specific as much as enjoying playing plug-in-and-stomp-ass rock as do others on MeteorCity, Small Stone, and TMC, as well as the defunct Man's Ruin imprint which functioned as short-hand for this sorta melange in the '90s even as they - and the other labels - carried a wider assortment of sounds. Kinda like SubPop did, even as they got typified quickly as "grunge").
With action going on in the Northeast with Scissorfight, (Roadsaw, R.I.P.), Milligram, and Lamont, all with distinct identities, you can see this "rocker-esque" action as either a rear-guard action against the hip-hop/techno-influenced hi-tech rock, a cleaned-up, tightened-down rehaul of '80s arena metal, and hardcore influences kickin' out an uber-rockist "thing" that's true "rock," or another cool option based in the past and living in today. Me? I love this stuff, but I loved the component parts and antecedents from Mountain to Black Flag to Soundgarden to Monster Magnet. I'd put Solarized in rotation with Solace, Atomic Bitchwax, Roachpowder, and Fireball Ministry, if you're looking for like-minded sounds to slot the five-disc changer. Put it on shuffle, you'll be able to tell 'm apart, but the mood will be consistent.
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