Nostalgia takes us back to turn of the century carefree summertime jams, where desert rock was hitting its stride, just sparking the kindling in the mainstream public eye, with bands like then newly formed Queens Of The Stone Age leading the charge; indeed the trail had been blazed, set to slow burn from the underground, up to the tiniest pinpoints of surface light for nearly a decade, preceding by the likes of Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson and of course Kyuss among others. People thinking that desert rock was a ‘new thing’, or a fad were missing the picture altogether, despite the scene’s eventual saturation to near extinction. It’s a lifestyle for those who were born into it – the people who play it, live it and breathe it as part of their DNA. Fans come and go, but the scene never dies…it just evolves.
Colorado’s Stone Deaf (Dust Chapin – Guitar, Vocals, Drums; Cody Isaman – Bass, Vocals; Kristofer “K-Party” Petross – Drums; Scott Anderson – Keys, Guitar), emerging on the scene in 2014, has slowly redefined desert rock’s evolution, taking (Josh) Homme’s cue on heavy quirk and pop integration (even the band name could be viewed as a nice blend of moniker QOTSA and 2002s landmark Songs For The Deaf) while grounding it in highly accessible but very well written tunes. Two full lengths and an EP in, their latest offering ((Killers)) has seen the group come into their own with a crisply produced, well rounded rocker, begging to blast them into mainstream popularity.
Much like the two preceding albums, the bulk of ((Killers)) is quick and to the point, with a majority of the songs clocking in at less than four minutes, with hooks fashioned for immediate staying power. Gone are the sparse arrangements that made their Self-Titled debut feel a bit like a less roboticized version of early ‘Queens’ (a compliment in its own right), partly due, assuming, from the lack of budgetary constraints this go around.
Opener Cloven Hoof sets the tone out of the gate, with its upbeat driving rhythm complete with requisite claps, the boogie and danceable feel nailing that R sound (Feel Good Hit Of The Summer anyone?), albeit with more metallic muscle. Mid paced rockers Polaroid and Death Ray continue the early momentum, the latter’s shuffling step and stun gun leads bleed from your speaker like they’re emerging out of some mystical fog; the whole song is like some version of B movie sci-fi hypnosis with harmonic minor fuzz leads to cap it off. It’s the kind of weird that made listening to Earthlings?, or anything else that spawned from Rancho De La Luna, such a fantastically bizarre experience.
Despite the similarity in style to early QOTSA, Stone Deaf keep inching closer to a standalone version of ‘desert rock pop’ with each successive release…
Despite the similarity in style to early QOTSA, Stone Deaf keep inching closer to a standalone version of ‘desert rock pop’ with each successive release. Tracks like the massive Snake Oil, in its sludgier riffing, and the sexy, sauntering fuzz groove of The Velvet Hammer are both downtuned and doom tinged enough to hybridize their pop appeal, both adding a decidedly darker tone to the album’s set list.
Closer San Pedro Winter, at nearly eight minutes, oozes the quintessential Kyuss jam feel, like a lost track from 1995 (or a reinterpretation of One Inch Man) unearthed and polished with 2021 sheen; you could even close your eyes at points and imagine John Garcia sneaking in a croon or two, or Homme himself noodling away in synchrony with the rest of the band. But where Homme’s evolution of eccentric took him into moodier and somewhat less accessible territory, Stone Deaf aim to keep their madness mostly pointed towards the more fun aspects of crazy, where the emphasis is on enjoying the music as an accompaniment to desert life in the throes of the unknown. I think listeners would do well to keep an eye on these guys because when the dust settles, the baton may have already been passed to the next purveyors of the scene.
Scribed by: Jeremy Moore