Album Review Saturdays 2024 Episode 14

Here we are again!  Another Album Review Saturdays 2024 and on Episode 14 we’re taking on the biggest band in Ohio as they continue their rock duo conquest.  Then we travel to some remote desert location for a very convincing psychedelic seance that is equally entrancing as it is semi-beguiling.  Then we move over to Small Stone Records for a fuzz education with a band that somehow cultivated these songs to this 2024 release over a conceptual coma-like status that seems like two decades (because it is, I think).  Intrigued?  Of course you are!  So let’s drop in on the rock, some psychedelia, and a twenty year conceptual stoner record!


[Mark Kuligowski & Panelist DAHM discuss these (3) albums + adds three (3) more reviews!]



The Black KeysOhio Players

You know the band.  If you don’t, you’ve somehow managed to steer your listening ships into an extremely narrow waterway over the last 20 years, which isn’t easy to do considering the reach and scope of the band’s connection to genres of rock, but also production and assistance with all kinds of other artists in the music multiverse.  On Ohio Players, the band seems to have returned home in their song-writing connection and the groove-rock that seems to be native to their musical tongue(s).  Considering the absorption of their big records over the past ten years, and the amount of heavy radio play some of those tracks have and deserve, it is unfortunately (sometimes) hard to get right into the albums without thinking, “would I want to hear these songs live over the prior albums.”  I think that’s the mystique of great bands.  You really love the past, that was the hook, and now you’re just lovin’ the recent stuff (maybe to the point where you’re diggin’ it more).  Now here comes another album with familiarity, which sometimes isn’t that gripping to start.  There’s also oddities (like rap), and that’s not exactly what you had expected, so it sets you in an uncomfortable band-lovin’ position.

This is Ohio Players start to finish.  Another ride directed comfortably and uncomfortably — purposely — to push the sound, give you the groove and delivery your ears have been somewhat accustomed to, but to also challenge and surprise them in all the right places.  And, The Black Keys have done this again, and remarkably in another short amount of time, wasting no note and time signature in pushing out this polished, refurbished rock-n-roll record.  If you were looking for indie swagger, it is there, but it has been cleverly meshed and mashed in engrossing rhythms from bass, to drum, to guitars, to claps, to keyboard.  Not a solitary instrument escapes it, and your feet and mind have no choice but to follow them into this main street, untouched, bowling alley where everyone’s dressed to the nines in their times, and rolling that fucking ball like they mean it!

Strike.  Strike.  Strike.  Turkey!  How can you not be having a good time here?  We’ve got Beck like nature in ‘Paper Crown,’ as if the crowd suddenly shifted on the entrance of a cultured faction from across the curb.  No, fight.  No stand-off.  Just everyone turning their heads, taking it in, and the joining in with only a moment’s hesitation.  Then everyone’s back rockin’ with a fine lead in that comes from Neil Young meets Beck.  You think I’m crazy…but ‘Live Till I Die’ fees off the prior Beck-ian style and let’s a certain “cinnamon girl” permeate the background!

So, and album that starts out making a statement of how ‘This Is Nowhere’ must be coming from someone sitting on the outside driving by.  You can’t live and know if you’re just driving by.  Get out of your car, and step inside Ohio Players, and the wicked fun that’s going on in this bowling alley of apparently perfect asses (scientist use that woman’s ass to fine tune their instruments with it’s so spherical).  And of course, ‘Every Time You Leave’ (because you have to sleep) you’ll come back for more either tomorrow or the next day.

The Band

  • Dan Auerbach – lead vocals, bass, electric guitar, Moog, claps, drum machine, Mellotron, shaker, Hammond organ, vocoder
  • Patrick Carney – claps, drum machine, drums, electric guitar, tambourine, Moog, Mellotron, shaker, cowbell, synthesizer

Additional musicians

  • Andy Gabbard – backing vocals (tracks 1–6, 8, 10, 13), electric guitar (13)
  • Beck – backing vocals (tracks 1–3, 11, 13), celeste keyboards (3), organ (10, 12), electric guitar (10), synthesizer (12), acoustic guitar (13)
  • Sam Bacco – shaker (tracks 1–3, 7, 9–11, 13), tambourine (1, 2, 5–7, 9, 10, 13), cowbell (1, 2, 8, 11, 13), cymbals (1, 7, 8), congas (2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 11), additional percussion (2, 9), bongo drums (3, 9), bells (3), woodblock (5), chimes (6), wind chimes (7, 13), gongs (13)
  • Tom Bukovac – electric guitar (tracks 1–6, 8, 9, 11, 14), acoustic guitar (2)
  • Ray Jacildo – piano (tracks 1–3, 5, 11), Hammond organ (1, 2); glockenspiel, Moog, organ, vibraphone, Wurlitzer organ (2); Wurlitzer piano (3), harpsichord (6)
  • Mike Rojas – piano (tracks 1, 3–5, 7, 9, 11); Mellotron, Moog (1); strings (2); vibraphone, Wurlitzer (9)
  • Jake Botts – baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone (tracks 2, 3)
  • Ray Mason – trombone (tracks 2, 3), trumpet (2)
  • Ashley Wilcoxson – backing vocals (tracks 3–5, 10, 11, 13, 14)
  • Leisa Hans – backing vocals (tracks 3–5, 10, 11, 13, 14)
  • Zach Gabbard – backing vocals (tracks 3, 8, 12), claps (3)
  • Chris St. Hilaire – claps (track 3), backing vocals (8, 12)
  • Dan the Automator – samples (track 3)
  • Noel Gallagher – backing vocals (tracks 4, 5, 9), electric guitar (4)
  • Leon Michels – electric guitar (tracks 4, 5, 9), organ (4, 5, 12); baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone (5, 9, 12); glockenspiel, Mellotron (5); Hammond organ, marimba, piano (9)
  • Trey Keller – backing vocals (track 5)
  • Angelo Petraglia – electric guitar (track 6)
  • Kelly Finnegan – backing vocals, Hammond organ (track 7)
  • Tommy Brenneck – baritone guitar, electric guitar (track 7)
  • Matt Combs – strings (track 7)
  • Aaron Frazer – backing vocals (track 10)
  • Greg Kurstin – backing vocals, electric guitar, keyboards, percussion, synthesizer (track 14)

Ohio Players Tracklisting

  1. This Is Nowhere
  2. Don’t Let Me Go
  3. Beautiful People (Stay High)
  4. On the Game
  5. Only Love Matters
  6. Candy and Her Friends (feat. Lil Noid)
  7. I Forgot to Be Your Lover
  8. Please Me (Till I’m Satisfied)
  9. You’ll Pay
  10. Paper Crown (feat. Beck & Juicy J)
  11. Live Till I Die
  12. Read Em and Weep
  13. Fever Tree
  14. Every Time You Leave



Mario Lalli & The Rubber Snake Charmers – Folklore From Other Desert Cities

Life in Mojave courtesy of a desert super-band featuring the Godfather of Desert Rock bassist, Mario Lalli, the ultra guitar talents of Brant Bjork (Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Vista, Chino, Brant Bjork and the Bros, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Ché, Mondo Generator, The Desert Sessions), the most well-known underground lead vocal you’ve never heard of (goddamn shame and then some), Sean Wheeler and stoner rock drummer, Ryan Güt!  This is a debut for the ages my music multiverse travelers!  Don’t go gently into this listen.  It is impossible.  This is an all entrancing, beguiling stroll, groove, and paranoid trip into the heart of the Southern California desert via the ears and eyes and vocals of a band completely enveloped in the desert rock psyche underground.

It’s epic psychedelic improvisation flow that’s heavy, explorative (like the desert), that before you realize it has completely engulfed your senses.  Even Sean Wheeler’s vocals have found their way from the spoken-punkish to a streaming storytelling blend of Rage Against the Machine and psychedelically enhanced Jon Waite.  All of which is predicated on the wollopping bass riff and lines of Mario Malli, even though the most well-known person in the band is Brant Bjork.  But, it’s Bjork’s continuing guitar intuitions in this Mojave methodology that sensitizes and entrances in an odd jazz construct followed tightly and heavily by the percussion of Ryan Güt who knows exactly how to work with Bjork.

Sean Wheeler’s poetic nature is captivating, and this is a testament to the entirely true concept that your vocal range has no bearing on how effective you can be.  You can sing like a songbird, and it will not matter if it sounds like your don’t connect.  He is waiting for the devil and you believe him.  You believe he is the desert preacher meeting you at the hazy, sleazy Los Angeles airport where he is beckoning you away from the fuckery, and apologizing for the journey all at the same time.  He sounds so pure.  The band unadulterated by studio, raw and completely at the command of sound and timing.  This is desert, heavy psychedelic rock in a live performance worthy of a debut release.

Let Folklore From Other Desert Cities rise into your stream of hearing consciousness.  Do not listen-away this experience, as it is one of those that comes around rarely, like an oasis in the desert.  There is not an inch wasted in bass line, guitar expressionism, and enrapturing poetic vocal storytelling.  The shamen of the Mojave have spoken, and they’ve awakened the spirits for everyone to take heed and possession of.  Get baptized in the sinister sounding sand and walk…into the burning unknown.  You might like it!

The Band

  • Mario Lalli – bass and vocal
  • Sean Wheeler- vocals and poetry
  • Brant Bjork- Guitar
  • Ryan Güt – Drums
  • Mathias Schneeberger- keyboards

Folklore From Other Desert Cities Tracklisting

  1. Creosote Breeze
  2. Swamp Cooler Reality
  3. Other Desert Cities
  4. The Devil Waits For Me




Iota – Pentasomnia

Well this one is easy on the title, so let’s go there first.  Five dreams in a state of something or other, right?  Cool.  I’m in!  Considering they are on the Small Stone Records label, we already know there’s going to be quality and stoner rock feel in there somewhere, so the mystery remains to the sum of all the parts.  And, considering how this is kind-of a concept record, it has an extra depth of intrigue now to it.  Oh, and let’s also add that they’ve been stewing on these five dreams longer than Sunny von Bülow was brain-dead in coma (don’t worry there’s no signs of Jeremy Irons roaming the studio at Small Stone Records).  Now let’s hear what this bluesy stoner rock group is serving up in these five songs of dreams, as they so put it.

First of all, you have 32 minutes to digest this doom, stoner behemoth, so be prepared to be taken on this doomy, space-blues rock dream-mission at an rapid-eye-movement climactic time frame.  Sorry – not sorry, says the band.  Awesome (I say to the band, you do you).  Awesome (says me, to Small Stone Records, for allowing them to sling this the way they wanted, and for being really fucking patient).  Now, you all remember that first time you heard Alice In Chains’ Facelift, and you took some notice.  You noticed the pace, lingering, yet still heavy and driving.  You noticed the dark harmonies, and you kind of well — you didn’t give enough credit to the blues that was really going on.  Well, Iota’s Pentasomnia is one of these kind of records!  Not only does the harmony sneak up on you, but the bluesy vocals here are elevating the listening experience in the same capacity as the riffing and driving passion of the music.

I will say, in defense of the prior album in 2008, that the production here seems to be drowned out for the effect of the dream, and I’m not sure if the overall passion and performance of the musicianship might have been served up better under the prior directive.  There was also a bit more added instrumentation and heavy force of blues rock over alternative grunge in this record.  The way the guitars hang in the prior album, Tales, are much more noticeable and lively.  They are two different records, I realize, but I wanted to point out this driven difference just so listeners understand should they wish to explore this band further, as well as understand the context of 16 years prior (and what it can do to sound and the time and outside influences).  That prior album also makes for a great listen as starter or rabbit hole, if you choose.

I would love to hear what comes next from Iota, but I’m afraid if their path to creation continues, I might have been put out to pasture, or forced into easy listening aides way too sensitive for next level stoner-doom in 2040.  There’s a mathematical projection you don’t get in music articles these days.  I oughta (you’re following me right with that wording there) know better than to get behind a band that apparently likes to give birth, nature and mature before sending an album on it’s way.  Oh, who am I kidding.  If I can wait for Boston, to put out the same record now every 8 years or so, or the slow pace of Cynic and Tool deliveries, I can certainly be ‘The Time Keeper’ here, waiting on the next Iota record.  In the meantime, Pentasomnia‘s five dreams are very worthy of several stoner rock years of listening until our ears meet again.

The Band

  • Joey Toscano: guitars, synths, vocals
  • Oz: bass
  • Andy Patterson: drums

Pentasomnia Tracklisting

  1. The Intruder
  2. The Witness
  3. The Returner
  4. The Timekeeper
  5. The Great Dissolver
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