Is grunge starting to make a comeback? I’m not sure about that, but I guess it would be about time for it. With bands like Metz, The Men, and Holograms among others, a lot of today’s bands aren’t being shy about turning up their amps. California X is a band that would definitely fit in the loud category, and one that furiously punishes their guitar strings throughout their self titled debut album. But make no mistake, California X isn’t just a bunch of dudes banging on guitars and drums with no place to go, their songs have teeth, the guitars bite, and the drums hold onto your ears for dear life.
The band apparently originates from Amherst, Massachusetts not too far from where Dinosaur Jr. got their start, so naturally they have gotten some Dinosaur Jr. comparisons. Those comparisons do work, as California X lives in that fuzzed out, grimy, middle ground between punk, metal, and hard rock. The difference is mainly in the vocals. California X lead singer Lemmy has a more straightforward approach, and doesn’t sound as nearly as apathetic and slacker-like as J. Mascis, however both approaches work outstandingly for each band.
But comparisons are just that…comparisons…and California X stands on their own as a quality band. While the album is just 8 tracks, the band delivers quality instead of quantity. Opening track ‘Sucker’ is a seven minute exhibition on how to play guitar in a rock band. ‘Curse of the Nightmare’ not only continues the guitar assault but increases the velocity, maintaining enough catchy-ness that you can sing along if you would like. Third track ‘Pond Rot’ sounds like Alice In Chains and Weezer had a gorgeous music making baby. Sixth track ‘Lemmy’s World’ isn’t an ode to the lead singer from metal band Motorhead, but rather a somewhat restrained, effective, chugger of a tune that explodes into the chorus, ending up being arguably the most effective track on the album. The contender in that argument is the final track ‘Mummy’. Mummy is probably the most sparse sounding track on the album for the first two minutes before going a bit ape shit into the chorus. ‘Spider X’ and ‘Spirit World’ are no slouches themselves, and now I’ve mentioned seven of the eight tracks on the album, one should begin to understand there are quality songs aplenty on ‘California X’.
When California X gives their songs a little room to breathe, it works, and it could be a direction they head in the future. But being Titus Andronicus on steroids isn’t a bad sound either, and while you can’t get away from the fact the band is loud, it shouldn’t deter people who like less muscular music from checking them out. These guys are fiercely melodic, managing to pull off the strange coup of pummeling your ears violently with cotton candy.
I haven’t given too many bands a rating above eight. I tend to probably go a little low, but of all the debut albums I have heard in the past year or so, these guys are near the top. A real quality debut album.