After signing to Undergroove last year Spider Kitten were supposedly set on recording a concept album. However, before they stepped into the studio in anger to record it, they entered a productive jam session from which was born the mesmerising three track Behold Mountain… a folk laced Nordic inspired tail of nature and battle that walked the line between progressive doom and whimsical folk (along with some blistering rock out moments).
So hot on it the heels of the extended length three track was to be the concept album right? Wrong.
The band surprised everyone early in the New Year with the six track EP Toker, an esoteric blend of covers and original material that highlighted the bands diverse influences and need to push the boundaries of their own art and help transition from one musical phase to another.
First track Arturo Bandini (a tribute to either a character from American soap One Live To Live or a character from John Fante’s novel Ask The Dust) is a short, heady instrumental awash with folk influences that seems to bridge the gap from the more historical side of the previous release with the thick, cavernous Doom that Spider Kitten have carved out. It almost seems throwaway, but is understated in its creeping progression; a moody, deep mournful precursor that throws you off guard before the first track proper, their take on T-Rex‘s Children Of The Revolution.
If Doom-Glam was a thing (or Glam-Doom) then the Kittens have probably nailed it as they take the plodding song of youthful rebellion and give it a grinding groove that accents the plodding tempo and compliments their love of vintage gear with a sleazy, distorted, sounding statement of intent that is accented by an almost wistful multi part vocal harmony.
Whatever your take on the original, this is a little slice of cool as the Americana influence of the whole EP starts to take hold and they take the established hit down their own twisted kaleidoscope. Thematically this ties in with the seventies vibe the band have been working towards with the now legendary concept album and seems like a precursor building up to it.
The second of the three cover track is the full on faithful country recreation of David Allen Coe‘s classic outlaw song Longhaired Redneck. On the original, Coe imitates several legends of the genre and here Spider Kitten pull off a loving version in the same manner, transporting you from the heady vibe of young sounds of the American Dream to the subtle ‘fuck you’ of the older American way, with its defiant charms as the band seem to revel in the freedom to ditch the Doom in favour of honouring another folk heritage. Even if they have messed around with the lyrics this shares the same sentiment as the original.
The original number Coquettish derails the party slightly with its sinister edge and screeching feedback. This sub two minute paranoid nightmare channels the sludge they threatened before recording Behold… as it is trademark slow and pounding, like a comedown from the drinking session in the bar of the previous track.
This segues into The River Song, which is the pick of the bunch of the original tracks, with its lilting folk lament. The stripped back guitar and vocal arrangement tells a soulful tale of love, mortality and pain that sounds as every bit as authentic as the work of William Elliot Whitmore or Nate Hall. When it breaks out into a big classic rock moment to end, it swirls dramatically and punches into your consciousness.
The closing track is a classic that everyone is probably familiar with, from the Deftones to a million people on You Tube, the Lynyrd Skynyrd song Simple Man has many admirers and imitators and Spider Kitten are aware of the risk of covering such a big standard, but acquit themselves with ease as they faithfully execute the song with clear reverence. You get the feeling with this EP, and in particular this track, that they’re doing what they want because it feels right to them. It is a well executed cover and perfectly listenable, anyone’s opinion on it is almost moot at this point.
Toker is a strange beast, it feels like it took several deviations along the way in its genesis and feels like the band are experimenting, trying out what they want to do, before committing themselves to a large project. For something so seemingly throwaway, it has many levels of musical styles and influence, yet it seems to move forward in a clear direction.
If this and Behold… where things they knocked out just to see what they could do, imagine what either of their albums will be like.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden