Bongzilla are back, with their first full album since 2005(!) and their first as a three-piece. The crucial elements are still in place – demonic cannabis imagery, suggestive song titles, big bluesy repetitive heavy riffs. But Weedsconsin doesn’t immediately hold the samples, harshness, and speedy push of the Bongzilla of old. My experience of their previous albums is mostly reaching for them for some mellow stoner grooves, and being surprised that they’re actually pretty gnarly.
This record if anything works in the opposite direction, whether that comes with age or the line-up change, and I was struck by how laid back it is on the whole. There is some of the old restlessness that agitates in what comes close to a punk political statement in Free The Weed, but the former kick into fierceness seems far away, especially as we go into a folksy melodic existence on Space Rock. The first taste of that old aggro does show itself in the ten minute track as Bongzilla gradually work themselves into a pummelling gallop that’s much more typical of their older material, before stepping back into less that oppressive mode.
Earth Bong / Smoked / Mags Bags – recently trailed as a live session video – is a classic Bongzilla medley track, and the attack that was held back earlier on the album is finally given rein. There is a classic heavy metal tonality to parts of the song, offering another new view of the band that perhaps fits their longevity (Stash was 23 years ago…) or fits with the all-American tone-rocking they’re employing with the single guitar.
The song wanders far and wide, including some hippy-friendly hand-drums, and clears the stage ready for Reefer Madness hilarity as the band blows out your eardrums with Gummies. Endless rolls around the drum kit show the surprising grace that the best doom drummers sneak in under the riff. Perhaps Bongzilla have at last learned to ‘eat the love’, and the mournful slow-down and fade feels suited to a party lapsing into overwhelming THC sedation.
The vibes are heavy, the bud is kind, and if only it were high summer, I think I’d be blasting this out of my open windows with a grin on my face…
Speaking of which, it took me a couple of listens to get any notes down about Weedsconsin as it seems that on first listen, I got distracted and drew a hammerhead shark instead.
Bongzilla were a band I loved for many years, but as a distant legend. More recent times have given me the chance to see them twice in London, both brief sets but full of beautiful anarchic release. Them getting kicked off the stage at the Underworld after lighting several large joints only served to feed the mythos, although apparently I missed the legendary misdirection they used to get away with it the next time they were playing there.
It’s amazing then that they’ve wrongfooted me with a record that is both undeniably Bongzilla, and yet not quite what I would have expected. The vibes are heavy, the bud is kind, and if only it were high summer, I think I’d be blasting this out of my open windows with a grin on my face.
Scribed by: Harry Holmes