I’m not big on reviewing albums by bands who aren’t from Houston, because I know my place in this world; and I figure that’s what Rolling Stone is for. However, because of my small amount of time at Free Press Houston, I’ve had some good stuff come my way. Usually it’s by a band who’s already getting national press or it’s a band who made a lacklustre album. But with the case of Orange County’s Slow Motion Rider, it’s neither. Due to a local rep who works for their label, I got an advance copy of their debut Self Titled release. What I realized immediately, is that someone needed to step up and share this epic album with as many people as possible.
Usually when a genre makes a return, it’s usually hampered with artists who don’t appear to understand what the original scene was all about. But, with Slow Motion Rider, you immediately realize that they get the message loud and clear. Slow Motion Rider has actually been around for a while now, and they’ve played plenty of shows around Texas as well as some in Houston. But time has very little to do with their sound. A three piece, the band has that ability to make you forget they’re not a four or five piece act with their energetic and psychedelically charged live show. What really grabs ahold of the listener with their debut album, is how the overall sound comes across. I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only person who listened and was immediately transformed to the corner of Haight and Ashbury, circa 1967. The mix of Alan Stone’s vocals and garage rock guitar that peppers the jazz infused drums from Austin Hand, is only brought to life through the jammy bass lines from Blake Kennedy.
Produced by The Brian Jonestown Massacre guitarist Rob Campanella, you immediately appreciate the fact that he was at the helm of the sound board. That feeling of when you crank up an album and it never breaks up is all over this recording. The epicly bombastic tone of the album’s opener, “Hold Your Hand Out To The Sun,” greets the listener to the raw power that the three piece brings to the table. The song makes the listener want to walk out on top of a mountain with arms outstretched and greet the sun’s rays. This is only followed by the hook heavy sound of “I Can’t Feel Anymore” that definitely lives up to it’s name. The way that Kennedy’s bass rolls in like molasses and continues to groove it’s way throughout the track like a snake slithering through the jungle is pure magic. The use of organ on the song emotes the mysticism that The Doors were constantly attempting to recapture, only to be overblown by Stone’s buttery guitar and Hand’s steady beats behind the kit. However, it’s around the fourth track, “Love Will Find A Way” that you realize where the meat and potatoes of these guy’s sound lies. With a jammy Cream sounding opening, you can’t deny the sheer attitude that these guys bring to this album. This is to be followed by one of several stand out tracks, with the Jimi Hendrix styled sounding “Wondered Why.” You’d constantly keep asking where this sheer force of psych meets old school rock comes from; if you weren’t so busy jamming out.
Another standout is the seventh track, the mystical yet still ballsy “You’ll Never Know.” The pace is only kept in line by the runs on the fingerboard coupled with the driving back beat. The simplicity of the song’s structure just adds to the beauty of how it’s crafted. By the time you reach the trippy sound of “The Key,” you realize that if you had said prayers about rock making a comeback; someone heard them. Every LSD soaked note is delivered with tracers of depth, only to be followed by a gritty chorus that goes from trippy to dirty, like all good rock songs should. The album closes with an almost commentary of sorts on the state of music and life today, with the hard driving but still psych heavy “Kids Ain’t Got No Soul.” The way the track begins, you’re full attention is awaiting the declaration, only to realize that the message is more of a free form jam than any type of comment. The soulful groove is one that states that these guys have more soul in one guitar lick, than most bands who will come after them will have in a lifetime. The album is one hell of a ride that clocks in at just a little under forty five minutes.
I would love to think that I was overselling this album, except for the fact that everyone I know who’s heard it feels exactly as I do. The image and ultimate sound that Lenny Kravitz has spent the past twenty years trying to cultivate is done with ease on this album in just ten simple tracks. The mix of jammed out solos, that’s paired with drums that hit when they’re supposed to hit, while having bass lines fill all of the grooves is something every listener wants on an album. Slow Motion Rider delivers on that sound at each and every turn. The overall feel is that everything is immediate. It’s immediately listenable, immediately likeable, which results in never waiting for a “killer” track. This could easily come in as one of the best and most solid albums I’ve heard in the last decade. You can pick up a copy of this masterpiece when Slow Motion Rider shares the stage with Cool Piss, DJ Old Scratch, and Rivers at Warehouse Live on May 23rd.