Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Review: Volcano - "Volcano"
Of all the Sublime offshoots that sprang up after the death of vocalist Brad Nowell (Long Beach Shortbus, Long Beach Dub Allstars, Dubcat, Chapter 11, etc.), Volcano stands out as both the most shrouded in obscurity (playing few shows and with little press information or otherwise available) and the act least like a cash-grab (releasing only one album and letting it go out of print soon thereafter). Coincidentally, it also happens to be one of the best of the post-Sublime era.
Fronted by Curt Kirkwood of Meat Puppets fame, Bud Gaugh and Mike “Miguel” Happoldt of Sublime man the drums and lead guitar respectively, with Jon Poutney of surf-punk act (and Sublime’s biggest influence) the Ziggens on bass. Kirkwood and Gaugh previously played together with Nirvana’s Krist Novaselic on the commercial and critical failure Eyes Adrift, but Volcano is a rather radical departure from the uninspired rock of the former. In the words of Kirkwood, “The producer says it sounds a lot like Eighties, SST-era, Up On the Sun Meat Puppets. But there's more bouncy rhythms -- we do a lot more stuff that was inspired by the Selecter, the Specials and Bob Marley."
The self-titled album gets going with its most rocking number, the punk-infused “Pine Cone” (which Kirkwood wanted to name the band, but was thankfully outvoted). The first track gives a telling example of Kirkwood’s lyrical tendencies in Volcano: If the band leaned a bit more heavily towards punk, this would be the paradigm of hippie punk. Almost all of the songs are drenched in imagery of nature and the outdoors, and one doesn’t have to strain the imagination too hard to envision Kirkwood writing this album alone in a shack in the middle of the Colorado forests. The breezy pop of “Twisted Seeds” follows suit: “Clear the sand off of the beach / The ocean’s grown too wet to flow / Apples hung just out of reach / Try to make a garden grow / I must have planted nails and bolts” and ends with a luscious canon bringing “Twisted seeds that sideways grow” into the fold.
With Gaugh and Happoldt of Sublime, it was probably an easy decision to point a few songs in the reggae direction, and it’s a good thing it happened as they’re some of the album’s best. “Arrow” somehow pulls off country-infused ska, while “It Don’t Matter” and “Some Kind of Light” are two of the catchiest songs of the bunch. “Blown Away” is a breezy pop-punk tune with a banjo, while “Greenery” haunts with its eerie guitar effects and minimalist imagery. The only real flop on the album is “Rave Only,” which is repetitive and unimaginative. By stark contrast, the whimsically creepy “Lonesome Ghost” closes out the record, which has always seemed like it would have been perfect for M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village with its genius composition of equal parts whistling, banjo, wood-block percussion, and electric guitar.
Though Volcano never reached even a fraction of the fans or success of its So-Cal reggae-punk predecessors in Sublime or hardcore-turned-alternative-rock giants of the Meat Puppets, Volcano remains a truly unique collaboration and a solid collection of songs.
Posted by Tyler at 5:13 PM