Few bands weather a massacre before they are even formed. The Warlocks endured two: the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and its sadist-in-chief, the mercurial, prickly genius known as Anton Newcombe. After a few dead-end musical endeavors, Bobby Hecksher joined the implosive outfit fronted by Newcombe. Then he decided to lead his own band of miscreants.
At first, the Warlocks seemed like nothing more than an extension of Newcombe's oversized ego. Hecksher was plagued by drug use that many argued had doomed Brian Jonestown Massacre to cult status. He also seemed to have inherited Newcombe's obsessively controlling tendencies, writing all the material himself and allowing his band to become a revolving cast (19 members and still counting). The two bands even shared a label, the L.A.-based Bomp. Hecksher, meanwhile, seemed all too comfortable reinforcing the public perception that the two bands were one in the same, especially when he invited Newcombe to guest on the fledgling band's first EP.
Slowly but surely, the band began to chart its own musical course. With its sophomore album, Phoenix, the Warlocks demonstrated that the band did indeed desire its own identity, even if it wasn't quite sure what that identity was yet. With the one-two combo of "Shake the Dope Out" and "Hurricane Heart Attack," the Warlocks glorified the drug use that Newcombe and Hecksher had certainly indulged in, but unlike Newcombe, Hecksher's songs didn't get mired in their creator's chemical dependency. With its screeching Lou Reed guitar solos and arrhythmia-inducing bassline, "Hurricane Heart Attack" managed to be a far more effective nostalgia trip than any of Newcombe's slavish, often incoherent paeans.
Yet Phoenix's strides can't help but appear overly cautious in light of its successor, the just released Surgery. On the aptly titled disc, Hecksher finally severs the last remaining ties to BJM, converting his naked ambition into dense, sprawling soundscapes. Dedicated to Bomp's founder Greg Shaw, who recently passed away, and the late Elliott Smith, Surgery's 11 tracks are haunted by a profound sense of loss -- the morbid lyric sheet is backed by music that cuts far deeper than Newcombe's defanged classic rock interpretations. Aided by producer Tom Rothrock (Elliott Smith, Coldplay), Hecksher explores more vulnerable, fragile territory on songs like opener "Come Save Us," with its hymn-like plea for someone to rescue him from impending self-destruction. The guitars surge behind Hecksher, making his words resonate like some sort of celestial last rite.
Even when Hecksher does overtly reference the past, such as on the smack-laced reworking of "Earth Angel" that is "Angels in Heaven, Angels in Hell," it never feels like a cheap appeal to nostalgia. On "Angels," Hecksher steeps the song in so much delay and reverb that only a dull throb remains, similar to the warm-yet-distant sensation that Jason Pierce of Spiritualized often achieves. Yet Hecksher, no matter how much his songs seem to drift, displays a willingness to reach out, which makes Surgery eminently more approachable than Pierce's womb-like, insular creations or, for that matter, Newcombe's. Hecksher's concerns are ultimately more earthbound and, well, empathic than either of his influences. It comes perhaps as no surprise that a number of his lyrics can be traced to an incident that occurred in Spain in late 2003, when he suffered an ear infection so painful and debilitating that it nearly cost him his hearing.
No doubt the experience is somewhat responsible for the newly emotive, palpable version of Hecksher, now decidedly less obsessed with the strictly corporeal facets of drug use. While under the tutelage of the near caricature of rock-star id, such a transformation seemed impossible. But Surgery, unmistakably, flaunts a character and eccentricity of its own design: It's where Newcombe ends and Hecksher begins.
Nashville has more dive bars than ATL now that sucks. tbh i think that new…
*Christ, Lord sorry
"Punk" style like this seems like it is the polar opposite of punk. Bradford Cox…
They're kind of starting to look like a joke of themselves. Song's good though.