When I first heard Bongzilla (likely something from Gateway) I was quickly hooked by their narky and scuzzed-out stoner sludge, the combination of punk-as-fuck attitude and huge grooves. This riotous racket was massively zonked, but also gnarly and pointy. Jump forward a couple of decades and those earlier works still put a big stupid grin on my face.
The Bongzilla of the 2020s however, is not that same bongwater-spilling, cannabis agitprop outfit. Indeed, I will fess up and admit that listening to Dab City I have found myself, at times, getting restless. Are Bongzilla… too stoned? Too comfortable now?
Where once they were in the business of battling senseless laws, Dab City sees the band enjoying a long and lazy mooch through a resinous utopia. Out as a double album, it is – in my honest opinion – too long. To have a whole side given over to Dixie Dave Collins rambling about getting really fucked-up is just not really needed, and from my aged and responsible perspective, a little problematic. So yeah, what I’m saying is they could do with a kick up the arse, maybe a brush with the law, and a more proactive editor.
As the strutting nastiness of King Of Weed (with its echoes of Sacred Smoke) shows – when keeping things tight – there is still an edge to Bongzilla. Here that edge allows the wandering two-tracked guitar lines to walk out some stoned blues, which becomes in turn the basis for some droning amp head expansion. From the outset (onset?) they seem to be in the business of quoting themselves but take familiar galloping lines drifting into jam room chill in a much more relaxed and open way than in days of yore.
Bongzilla can still smash down doors like a drug squad raid…
In refining their methods for attaining extreme altitudes, Bongzilla find a more refined and abstracted sound. Where Muleboy gets it together to find his voice, the vocals sit in another layer of reverb and Magma’s drums bubble away like bong water where once they might have set a straighter and more indica course through the sea of green. Such is the vibe that seven minutes into the title track, I’m feeling like I’ve lived there forever, popping to the fridge for a can in the space between bars.
Closing the album with American Pot, it’s clear that this jamming sensibility is very much the intention, the long drift of the middle section telling me firmly, but politely, that I’ve been listening to the album with the wrong ears. Bongzilla can still smash down doors like a drug squad raid but are now more interested in exploring where the song goes when everyone just calms down for a minute. And to good effect, despite my grumbling, this is a satisfying record and we all need to take the time to slow down now again. So, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll roll a quick number and head for the hammock…
Scribed by: Harry Holmes