Some things you just can’t teach and Brant Bjork was born with a divine hand for rock and roll soul – that enviable gift that puts you above the law and beyond the lesson. You can trace it back to his earliest days with Kyuss; if Josh Homme was the ego, Bjork was the id, making tracks like Green Machine and Gardenia rumble and ring as Sunn amped, fuzzed out classics. The history is dead on – Bjork has been the curly haired ‘Buddha vapor’, wisping his way from band to band, imparting his coolness blueprint on unsuspecting souls who desperately needed it – aka the firm kick in the ass that Fu Manchu needed after Eddie Glass and Co. split for the Let it Burn (Nebula) sessions – I doubt the ‘Action’ would have ‘Gone’ anywhere without Bjork’s contribution; his indelible stamp and trademark grooves propelled that band into their second Golden Age – a rare feat for any group, especially one operating with the genre limitations inherent to traditional punk-tinged stoner rock.
But despite his obvious success as the behind the scenes ‘first lieutenant’, the evolution of his solo career, from 1999’s Jalamanta to the awesome Punk Rock Guilt (2008) and others, has allowed him to flex a little wing, a bit of muscle, and a shit load of jam – and Black Power Flower stays true to the script, reinforcing just how talented this multi-instrumentalist ‘super-dude’ really is; backed by The Low Desert Punks – Bubba DuPree and Dave Dinsmore on guitar and bass respectively with Tony Tornay on drums – Bjork brings it home with a focused outing that gives nods to the riff rock and bluesy haze that saturated much of his late 90s/turn of the century material but maintains a firm eye on the jazzier ‘progressive prize’ that he and the Bros (BBB) held center stage on Somera Sol’s cooler moments.
Tracks like Stokely Up Now burn with two fuses – the pulse and sway of a no frills central riff and the intricate smoke out, freak out chorus – Bjork and Dupree lay a foundation of amped note bending for a proggy bass lick; Dinsmore indeed struts his stuff and knows how to keep the limelight just long enough. It’s the kind of airy looseness that bands like Fugazi flaunted during their slicker moments and Soundgarden during their texturally richest; it spills over into much of the material on Black Power Flower and although the stripped down hooks of tracks like Controllers Destroyed and We Don’t Serve Their Kind showcase Bjork’s familiar fingerprint melodies and progressions, the songs play like every band member has a hand in the pot making this story anything but one-sided.
But luckily these boys have a similar ear for soul and playing from the gut – the instinctive dual guitar improv interplay on Buddha Time (Everything Fine) and the funk-wah riffage of That’s A Fact Jack rock and swing with sweltering muscle; it’s a ‘pull your lover and slip between the sheets’ kind of situation, with ball clankin’ grooves that beg for slow motion head nods and full moon carnality. Each of the four players has a signature – a tweak here, a flare there – something unique for the stew; and under these circumstances, more is just enough.
And although some songs might overstay their welcome (the last minute or so of Soldier Of Love for example), or end a bit too soon (the badass Ain’t No Runnin’), the record is a fine example of what happens when collective charisma goes rampant- – this version of Brant Bjork is a man at his unequivocal best. And what would his best be without a riff-referencing nod to Saint Vitus’s H.A.A.G. in album closer Where You From Man? If that’s not enough to get your attention, then being born yesterday is indeed too late.
Scribed by: Jeremy Moore