Stoner rock can be a double edged sword really, for example take the bio for 88 Mile Trip where it says…
‘The groundwork for 88 Mile Trip was laid down in late 2012 when Hugo and Darin, who were jamming across the hall from each other in their own separate bands (Lethal Halo and Entropia respectively) started talking about how they both were really into bands like Kyuss, Down and Black Sabbath, which eventually lead to them getting together for many riff writing sessions. The idea was to take the groove and catchiness of Kyuss and add some serious heavy to it. Thus you have the sound of 88 Mile Trip.’
Sounds great, who doesn’t like Kyuss and Black Sabbath?
Two bands that have gone down in legend for the music they produced and are rightly revered throughout the genre. When you set out a goal you are probably not going to say ‘lets try and be liked Staind or Godsmack’ rather than Alice In Chains or Nirvana because let’s face it, the first two are more than a bit shit. Therein I think lies the problem for 88 Mile Trip; when you hype yourself up like that then there is always going to be an Icarus moment when they crash and burn.
To be fair though, the band get a large amount right and ‘Cauldon Born’ kicks off the self titled EP with a doom like opening and moody drumming before breaking into some Kyuss style riffing. So far, so good. When the vocals come in they are solid, not spectacular, but stoner rock has not always been about having the best singer – this is soulful music that connects with the spirit and the music rocks along turning out some interesting twists and turns, not too mention some first class bass work.
Second track ‘To The Oasis’ features spacey jam like riffs and desert rock clichéd lyrics which could only be pulled off if you are from the desert, but it takes some convincing when you are channeling it from Canada. There is a touch of strain that creeps in every now and then on the vocals which is covered by a gruff, ballsy, metal vocal which seems a little at odds with the chilled nature of the music and an attempt at adding the ‘serious heavy’ which I’m not convinced works. This is more telling on ‘God of the Hunt’ which is a slow burning number that feels a little long by the end.
‘Green Reaper’ and ‘Swamp Disco’ though are where the band really get into their swing; the latter conjures an almost didgeridoo type effect on the funky jam and it is really captivating when the band cut into a groove and everything clicks as it is supposed to. The same can be said for ‘Green Reaper’ which has an incredible jazz like middle section to go with the laid-back cool-as-an-ice-old-beer-on-a-blistering-hot-day vibe.
For me the impending Icarus moment comes on ‘Weeping Widow’. It starts off fine enough with a nice melody but for me the wheels come off vocally as Dave goes beyond the previous straining top end of his range and into stratospheric falsetto. The song is potentially decent, but to be honest I struggled to focus beyond the extremely high notes and it takes all the attention away from the music – just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should.
I’m probably making it sound like my 88 Mile trip was a nightmare of bumpy roads, breakdowns and giving a lift to a stranger who made you feel uncomfortable, but this is not the case. The band are more than a competent bunch – the jam work that creeps into song infectiously, the elements of funk, the dexterous bass work are positively great, even Dave who is probably feeling much maligned at this point gets it right most of the time. The problem for me is that 88 Mile Trip don’t quite have that spark yet, I am not saying they won’t ever have it as they clearly have moments where they are touching brilliance, but the quality control lets them down at times.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden