John Garcia. John fuckin’ Garcia. There is no voice more synonymous with stoner rock or desert rock than that of John Garcia. Best known as the singer for genre progenitors Kyuss, he’s been a part of a number of projects since that band’s dissolution almost 20 years ago. While Kyuss may always cast a shadow over the man, his work with Slo Burn, Unida, Hermano and Vista Chino (among others) is no less impressive.
But those bands weren’t his. Brant Bjork, Josh Homme, Arthur Seay, Dave Angstrom etc. were the leading musical forces behind those bands for the most part. However, the time has come for Mr. Garcia to put his soul on the line with a solo album. Enter John Garcia.
Garcia has been sitting on the 11 tracks that make up the album for quite some time. In at least one case, over 20 years. (So maybe there’s hope yet for that stack of lyrics in my desk!) The time was right for Garcia to set his babies free. With the help of a talented cast of characters and ex-band mates his vision has come to fruition.
His touring band consists of guitarist Ehren Groban (War Drum), bassist Mike Pygmie (The Pedestrians) and drummer Greg Saenz (The Dwarves). But on the record one can hear the likes of Hermano’s Dave Angstrom and Dandy Brown, Nick Oliveri, Slo Burn’s Damon Garrison, and Mark Diamond of The Dwarves among others that I’ll get to shortly.
While fans of Garcia’s other bands won’t be disappointed with the album, it’s not easy to say it sounds like this band or that band. It sounds like a John Garcia band should. His voice fits best with a certain style of music. The kind that runs in his blood. As such, Garcia holds tight to a desert vibe with fuzzy tone, killer, addictively infectious riffs and the kind of groove that compels heads and toes into motion and turns spines to jelly.
It’s rock and roll that’s all too easy to get lost in. After the first listen the riffs and vocal melodies are instantly recognizable. Garcia’s ability to move through volumes and intonations captures the listener right by the heart. His passion becomes your passion. And the fact that it’s all worked into well written and catchy (lyrically and musically) songs solidifies the position that Garcia deserves all the praise that’s thrown at him.
There isn’t a dud to be found on John Garcia. Although “Confusion” stands out for its low key approach. Not that it makes the album suffer, mind you. It’s just not as energetic as much of the album.
Speaking of energy, “5000 Miles” draws from the energy of someone other than Garcia. It was written by none other than Canada’s own high energy rocker Danko Jones. Jones also performs on the standout track that he wrote for Garcia almost a decade ago and has performed with him live.
It’s got a distinct Monster Magnet vibe to the main riff and beats with a pulse that’s inescapable. It’s also the most personal track as it’s about coming home to family from the road. Hearing Garcia and Jones talk about it on The Official Danko Jones Podcast puts the heart and soul of the track into sharp focus. And if you listen close to the chorus you can hear the pluralization of “5000 miles from my babies, but tonight I’m comin’ home.” You can hear the conviction behind those words as Garcia is referring to his wife and kids. It doesn’t get more real than that.
Closing the album out is the acoustic “Her Bullet’s Energy.” Like “Confusion” it’s got a different energy level but that in no way lessens its impact. Other than being a cool song, what makes it special is the guest. The Spanish guitar that defines the track is performed by Robby Krieger of the Doors. And he knocks it out of the park. It’s a fitting end to an album that thrives on its simplicity.
John Garcia may not be as stoned as Slo Burn, or as dense and intense as Kyuss but that’s okay. It’s not supposed to be. It’s John Garcia. As he says in the podcast, he can’t hide behind the band as a solo artist. And he doesn’t. Everything that makes up Garcia is laid bare. The fact that it flat out rocks in exactly the way you’d expect proves that Garcia is more than just a voice.
There may not be another Vista Chino album, or another Unida or Hermano album, but if Garcia’s solo career is this solid, none of that matters.
This is John Garcia.
John Garcia was released July 25, 2014 on Napalm Records.
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