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Surgery is the eagerly awaited follow up to 2003s Phoenix and was recorded by The Warlocks current line up of Bobby Hecksher (guitar, lead vocals), JC Rees (guitar), Corey Lee Granit (guitar), twin drummers; Bob Mustachio and Jason Anchondo, Laura Grigsby (tambourine & organ) and the recently returned original bassist Jenny Fraser in various LA Studios with legendary producer Tom Rothrock (Beck, Elliott Smith, Badly Drawn Boy).
Featuring single "Come Save Us", Surgery sees the band return with a more dynamic, almost accessible pop sound and its twelve songs are without doubt their most ambitious and infectious to date. An otherworldly, subversive soul record it has a ghostly grace which mixes soothing sci-fi lullabies such as "Gypsy Nightmare" and the gorgeous doo-wop of "Angels In Heaven, Angels in Hell" with their trademark characteristic rohypnol rock-outs. Theres the intensity of "Suicide", the black humoured nod to illness on "The Tangent" ("I got so sick/ the nurses theyve all quit!"), while the albums title track is the sound of The Sex Pistols playing My Bloody Valentine with lacerating lyrics to match ("You operate/ Like no one else I know/ And your scalpel cuts/ Deep clean through my heart and my mind!"). From opener and new single "Come Save Us", the album is a shiver-down-the-spine onslaught which sounds like nothing else around right now.
Recorded over twelve chaotic months, its a wonder that Surgery ever saw the light of day. Three years of constant touring had taken their toll and the album was recorded against a backdrop of illness, tantrums, drug problems and band feuding. The Warlocks have gone through nineteen members in their short history. This is a band unafraid to take itself to the outer limits of endurance even if it almost kills them and its further proof, as if it were needed, that theyve grown into a truly aweinspiring rock group.
The ability to totally freak out is something that many bands aspire to, but few successfully achieve. Some who appear to have successfully tweaked their third eye, however, are Los Angeles seven-piece The Warlocks, and on Surgery theyve honed their druggy, droning songcraft into something thats finally fit for a place in Rock Valhalla. Inspired in equal part by the Rolling Stones, the Velvet Underground, and Rugby drone-rockers Spacemen 3, the likes of "Just Like Surgery" groan into life against a backdrop of juddering strobe and thick dry ice, singer Bobby Heckshers drawled vocal cutting through the double-drum rumble like a semi-conscious Dylan preaching the psychedelic gospel.
Heavy stuff, but The Warlocks also know how to sweeten things when the mood arises: both "Angels In Heaven, Angels In Hell" and "Evil Eye Again" nod towards the Wall Of Sound-era pop of Phil Spector, a sound thats been reconciled with the sonic excesses of noise-rock since the days of the Jesus & Mary Chain. And maybe therein lies a problem: if your rocknroll history book is well-thumbed, its possible this constant game of spot-the-influence could prove wearying. Its worth pointing out, though, that The Warlocks play this music with single-minded devotion and not a little skill. Copyists or not, this trip is a trip worth hitching.--Louis Pattison
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On the other side are the 12-minute jams, sprawling acoustic psych freakouts ('House of Glass' from "Rise and Fall" as a prime example) and lo-fidelity sound quality that recalled both the sleazy English 80s (Spacemen 3 et al) and the late 60s Northwest garage rock scene.
On this side are shorter bursts of muscular and decisively riff-laden shards, and a noticeable improvement in sound quality.
Few bands could pull off such a staggering transformation, and Warlocks are one of them.
Where Warlocks sounded like true 60s revivalists on "Rise and Fall" and "Phoenix" they now sound like modern bands that cite the 60s as an influence but sound more like the 80s underground, i.e. Brian Jonestown Massacre, Dandy Warhols, BRMC.
The ultra-catchy 'Just Like Surgery' steals a page from the Jesus and Mary Chain's playbook but substitutes the howling feedback with mid-fretboard power chords and an infectious lead riff. This song alone is worth the price of admission.
Producer Tom Rothrock did some tinkering and brought lead 'Lock Bobby Hecksher's pop songwriting instincts to the fore, and to fairly astounding effect.
'Gypsy Nightmare' carries some atmospheric background guitar lines behind the din and 'Angels in Heaven...' is akin to a doo-wop send-up or prom night slow dance that lifts some notes from Modest Mouse's 'Sleepwalkin.'
'Thursday's Radiation' harkens back to the sprawling/shimmering dirges of previous albums and will satiate long-time fans while providing newbies a taste of what they've missed.
Unfortunately 'The Tangent' drops an anchor into the middle of the album (and I believe it's one of a few songs Hecksher wanted to leave off the album), but it's rescued by 'Evil Eyes Again' (JAMC-styled pop), 'Above Earth' (bottom of the well slowcore) and 'Bleed Without You Babe' (slow-paced two-note blues with guitar explosions), which are notable standouts. 'Suicide Note' closes the album with one of the Warlocks' patented expansive jam sessions, though it's cut in half and a slithering bonus track closes the last five minutes of the 12-minute running time.
A few misses here ('The Tangent' and 'We Need Starpower' seem tossed off rather than fleshed out), but there are enough bullseyes here to keep your attention and prod newcomers seek out the Warlocks' outstandig earlier efforts.
A haunting, repetitive guitar riff leads you through "Come Save Us". As soon a Bobby Hecksher comes in with his vocals and cryptic lyrical content, you realize that he must have listened to The Cure a lot growing up. "It's Just Like Surgery" describes how a painful relationship can be both beneficial and painful. The driving rhythms only enhance the experience. "Angels in Heaven, Angles in Hell" comes off as a creepy love song from the fifties with it' dark tones and echoed vocals. It's about withdrawing from the real world and creating your own.
In a roundabout way, Hecksher is saying he needs to wish upon a star to escape from his current situation on "We Need Starpower". That may sound positive, but you can hear the pain and anguish is his voice. The Warlocks take an interesting look on a panic attack with "Evil Eyes Again". It either that, or facing death. Speaking of death, "Suicide Note" sums up the reasons that life's not worth living for our tortured soul. Interesting guitar tones and sounds, mixed with other progressive elements help set the mood.
Surgery is a sad, haunting trip into a tortured and depressed mind that would make Robert Smith of The Cure proud.
the entire album!
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