What with musical taste being one of the few things with which man can leave some sort of an impression upon the overall scheme of living—since, after all, routine defecation has not yet captured the hearts and minds of far off civilizations—some of the most dedicated seekers of taste go in search of the most provocative compositions they can imagine, implying depth, complexity and the ability to move faster than some sort of “curve”. Doing such a thing is no science, and if it were somehow given that honor it would be an inexact one. Flaws are inherent in all we do; for every slab of pure steroid-powered radio static there is on the other end a soft cushion three-chord jingling and jangling, and in between there’s coffee that’s been sitting at someone’s desk for the better part of a standard American workday. The Warlocks, with best intentions firmly in mind, have it in themselves to be wicked and to attract wicked people. It is implied enough by the violently hallucinatory title of the album and their preference for dungeon-like reverb that chillingly resounds in a good helping of the songs contained therein.
The Warlocks, it is my guess, are continuing along on their journey to be the bleaker, bloodier alternative to their peers such as The Black Angels and The Brain Jonestown Massacre. What started with their post-Mute album Heavy Deavy Skull Lover goes into a new stage with The Mirror Explodes. Having set aside all previous pretenses of psychedelia that have come to define their past albums, they are not content with existing on some expansive desert plain unless the details are adjusted so as to be more fitting for a Cormac McCarthy novel than The Doors of Perception or The Book of the Dead. I suppose it is their interpretation—or perhaps their sonically rendered experience—of one burning out and dropping one’s mind in some decrepit corner of said plain, guaranteeing that it would not be found for some time.
The band begins promisingly with “Red Camera” which, like almost all opening tracks ever recorded, is meant to give the listener, at the very least, a firm understanding as to what it is the band feels or wants to convey—assuming that most rock and pop artists care about consistency as much as I think they do. The song brings a few bleak adjectives and adverbs to mind: moody, icy, agitated, despairing, unnerving, etc. Think of it as though they are trying to render through song the depressive state of an otherwise manic grotesque who works in a meat locker for most of the day and does God-knows-what after hours. It’s founded on rough guitar rhythms and accented by reverberating guitar shrieks. The bass and drums pulsate sluggishly but not ineffectively, leaving no surplus of unease for the listener. At once it is plodding—made more so by droning, mostly incomprehensible vocals—and hysterical. It’s a creepy number, to be sure, too much so to serve as simple amusement. The Warlocks aspire to modern musical art that fuels the drug binges and depressive road trips to take place in the foreseeable future. If only they could rise above those other artists whose influence had a hand in the album’s creation.
It would be unfair of me, dickish even, to insist that all songs resemble “Red Camera” more closely in tone, structure and so forth, as if “neo-pychedelica” can be approached with the same rigidness of pop-punk. Whatever it is that The Warlocks play, it is a combination of accessible rock and past and/or future journeys to the center of the mind—however frayed and dissonant that mind may be—and hence all songs have the same starting and ending point but a different middle passage. The Warlocks have achieved this of course, but it could have been more interesting, more moving. Simply droning out guitar riffs and moping vocals over them does not give off any indication of a feeling greater than apathy. There is fond appreciation of the textures of white noise, which the band tries to get as much variety from as possible without having to depend on it so much that they qualify as sheer noise rock, a genre that is surely to come off as vulgar to formal composers like The Warlocks, but they aren’t fully confident in their use of it and hold back more than is necessary; there is a distinction between feedback and fuzz and it is something altogether alien to me for an artist to use one as the other. Though the only other track that complements the energy and atmosphere of “Red Camera” is the more uplifting and hook-focused “Frequency Meltdown,” not much else seems to provide them with the ability to propel themselves above those that have covered this territory before to greater effect, most notably—excluding the obvious of course—The Icarus Line. In making a bleak album that shows the darker side of psychedelica—or whatever—their preference for malaise has made it one for the depressive driver who needs music to ignore rather than to identify or escape with.