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The Warlocks
The Mirror Explodes Julian Marszalek , June 29th, 2009 12:15

At its very best, head music (or drone rock, shoegaze, call it what you will) is the winning combination of pop hooks and the ability to wig out in a fashion that's as much a trip into inner space as it is a journey into sound. Check the historical evidence: The Velvet Underground's 'Sister Ray' wouldn't be what it is were it not for the launch pad of that chord sequence. Hell, just feel the groove on the 28-minute live version that the band dropped in St Louis in November 1969 for its most perfect incarnation. Or how about Spritualized's mantra of 'Shine A Light'? A top melody blended with a gloriously circular swoop that utterly beguiles in its execution. Have you tried not nodding your head to Hawkwind's 'Orgone Accumulator'? Can't be done.

Even entry-level head music gives glimpses of what can be appreciated by the seasoned head. Say what you like about The Dandy Warhols (and plenty of people do) but on a good night 'Be-In' still sounds like the perfect fusion of rock'n'roll and hits from the bong. The Brian Jonestown Massacre can toss this stuff out with an almost consummate ease between bouts of fisticuffs and their alumni, The Warlocks, once strictly adhered to this winning strategy.

Ah yes, The Warlocks: we had such hopes pinned on you. How could we not? How could anybody not stand up and take notice of the glory that was 'Shake The Dope Out'? That crucial chord sequence, the melody, the feedback… as a wise man once said, “Oh honey, it was paradise”.

Sadly, with The Mirror Explodes, it sounds as if the drugs don't work anymore; more likely that The Warlocks are working for the drugs. This is a tune-free exercise in pointless dirges and drones that exist for no other reason than The Warlocks have run out of ideas and hoping that something – anything – sticks among the howling guitars and screaming amps. A once fine band, this is the aural equivalent of spending the last of your cash on some much needed weed only to find out you've been burnt with a quarter of oregano.

'Red Camera' is an unbelievably piss-weak opener. Feeding a double humbucker guitar though a phalanx of effects pedals and a cranked-up valve amp just ain't enough if there's nothing there to hook it on to. And so it goes and the urge not to smirk during 'There Is A Formula To Your Despair' is nigh on impossible, as that formula has already involved putting this pitiful CD into the player and pressing 'Play'.

As sure as Thursday follows Wednesday, one dreary dirge shambles along after another. Given The Warlocks' pedigree, The Mirror Explodes deflates and crashes with all nausea and pain of a Tuesday morning comedown. Worse still, with the complete lack of inclusiveness throughout, this collection isn't too different from the sheer tedium of listening to someone else's drug stories. Still, when all is said and done, the sense of prescience is keenly felt on 'Slowly Disappearing' and if there is a positive aspect to be found amongst the sonic detritus, it's that The Mirror Explodes is one of the most compelling arguments to be made for the continued prohibition of narcotic substances.