To date, Californian psychedelic rockers The Warlocks have released six full studio albums as well as a number of EPs, the first album proper being 2001’s Rise And Fall. As to be expected with any musical genius, founder and frontman Bobby Hecksher amassed a plethora of tracks written in bouts of prolificacy that remained on demo tapes that for whatever reason never quite took hold enough for a full release. Enter album seven, Songs From The Pale Eclipse, where Hecksher has trawled through these old tapes to resurrect some of his better ideas from the past and given them the full band treatment as a unique one-off release where, in his own words, “not everything fits like it’s one cohesive album”.
Over the 18 or so years since the band were formed, their psychedelic adventures have taken various forms, initially being that of a band developing tracks out of lengthy jams. These longer numbers such as their 12 minute Jam Of The Warlocks from the debut are scarce these days and only once do they hit half that length on Songs From The Pale Eclipse – for the psychedelic bubbling that is the laid back, whacked out Dance Alone. The lyrics to the longest song this time round, set to a lazy druggy haze of a tempo, perhaps inadvertently reveal the band’s many influences that all centre around the late 1960s and their spawn; name checks are everywhere, from The Troggs, The Zombies and The Animals to more modern day disciples of psychedelia such as The Jesus And Mary Chain, Spacemen 3 and Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Of the remaining nine tracks, there are at least five that substantially embellish their burgeoning catalogue, leaving you scratching your head as to why they disappeared in the first place. Excellent single Lonesome Bulldog is the best example of a long lost gem being deservedly rediscovered: a slow guitar solo in the melodic style of Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe provides the spine of the track, starting out in a twangy tone depicting more of a lonesome cowboy image than a bulldog before developing into an explosion of fuzz from the amp, the lyrics hinting at the subject of a homeless person, perhaps.
An ode to alcohol provides the subject matter for Drinking Song before the taste turns sour and develops into a lament about the associated perils that excessive drinking can cause, “so many lives you’ve taken without regret” bemoans Hecksher, as all too common struggles are touched upon, all the while sounding a little like what David Bowie’s Space Oddity would have sounded like if played back to a spaced out Major Tom. Another highlight – album opener Only You – plays out another Brian Jonestown Massacre-like guitar line set to a persistent but subdued wall of guitar wail, Hecksher’s husky, whispery vocal style bringing comparisons to The Dandy Warhols’ Courtney Taylor-Taylor. We Took All The Acid then goes one step closer to the Dandy’s similarities, sounding akin to the Portland quartet’s brilliant Come Down era.
The second half of the album is less special than the first with just Drinking Song and the excellent two-note undulations of I Warned You perhaps worthy of a higher placing amongst the band’s fully loaded cannon. The latter plays out like a slow The Jesus And Mary Chain track, as bursts of superb electric guitar cement the songs prowess amidst relationship difficulties portrayed by lyrics such as “you say you want me, you say you feel blue, make up your mind because you’re driving me insane”.
2013’s Skull Worship probably represents the band’s most consistent offering to date and unsurprisingly, that doesn’t change with the latest release. Neither does the new collection offer any addictively catchy moments like the band’s most commercial sounding (despite the subject matter) single under the Mute banner for whom they were briefly signed to – Shake The Dope Out. What it does do, however, is provide fans with some essential tracks that their Warlocks collection can’t do without whilst also providing an introduction to the casual listener that will more than likely nudge them into sniffing out earlier albums.