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Dopesmoker (reissue) Cian O'Neill , June 12th, 2012 10:28

It's often difficult to muster excitement when you know what's going to happen, too, like when an unbound Lionel Messi is passed a football: "Well, he's going to mock physics", says God, chucks his shoulders and ambles off towards the jakes. Much the same thought went through this writer's head as he put on the 'deluxe reissue' of Sleep's Dopesmoker, i.e. '[W]ell, this is going to thrum like a turbine and durng like funeral bells, isn't it?'

So, he went out for a walk, putting it off for a bit. Saw a cat by the park chewing a bird. Failed to find this portentous. Went back in. Found a bit of furred brie at the back of the fridge in a torn plastic bag, remembered vaguely buying and chawing on a pack of Président at three in the morning two weeks back after the Crobar. Decided not to chance it. Went back to the park, threw the brie at the cat, pinched the dead bird and took that home for lunch instead. Or something like that. Something somewhat repetitive, a little prosaic, a little dark... not to suggest an analogy, you understand, just wanted to provide a thumbnail picture of prevarication; and bring up the paid-per-word wordcount [Make it rain. Ed.].

Then there's the instinct that we have to endlessly do things over, which in the field of mistakes may be called a love life. In music, it's called the reissue, and so to it. Yep, uhuh, it's great, but then you knew that already, didn't you? Oh gnarled Quietus reader, knuckled up before a computer monitor like a chimp mooning at the glass, pulling on a five-day beard with non-opposing thumbs, she say 'Classic; natch.' Best be careful revisiting a classic though (which Kevin Shields would tell you, if you but waited a few years for the sentences to form.)

How does the re-release look? Pleasurably silly, glad to say, and the newly-commissioned Arik Roper artwork on the cover will add fetish value. It looks good in a retrospective, 'sci-fi library' fashion and there are some supplementaries within, such as a transcribed riff-chart to aid one's bedroom air axing. Crucially, the recording isn't buffed up and ring-aged like Peter Stringfellow's dancing pole, instead sounding just as fuzzy but a little warmer, quite a bit clearer and, well, a little bit bigger, more capacious: Ashes Rise guitarist Brad Boatright, the man responsible for the re-mastering, has done some modest good. If the first had sonic charms which seem extemporary, this one is somewhere between the sublunary murk of the earlier bootlegs, the original band-approved TeePee records version of 2003 and a brighter, modern-sounding studio demo, but it's not glaringly distinct. It not being an absolute transformation, the danger is that this will end up simply another and not the definitive version, which the band purportedly intended it to be.

Yet chances are that anyone who appreciates the aesthetics of stoner rock (vocals like a troll with its foot trapped, drums like boulders dawdling down a hill towards a schoolhouse etc) will likely thank the band for wanting one widely-available, properly-presented version of their magnum opus out there. It won't harm the original bandmates' piggybanks any, if the London ATP performance of the LP is to be taken not simply as a victory lap, but an opportunity for Om as well as guitarist Matt Pike's High on Fire to get a little limelight after all those years spent watching lesser bands take their shibboleth and strip it for parts. Christ, when it's put that way, you probably should buy it on point of principle - get those boys their dues, they've been too long coming.

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