When people talk about Desert Rock (or the less
appealing Stoner Rock, a term most locals abhor), inevitably the
same couple of bands are referenced: Queens Of Stone Age
and Eagles Of Death Metal. Maybe if they dig a little deeper it’s
Kyuss and the generator parties of the late 80s.
But there are plenty of Desert Rock pioneers that rarely
receive the amount of ink afforded Josh Homme or Jesse Hughes.
Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson), Herb Lineau (Half Astro), Sean Wheeler
(Throw Rag) and Zach Huskey are the unsung heroes of the nascent
Practically the minute puberty hit, Zach Huskey began
making music. The Sciotics, Blue Sunday and Next are just a few
of the bands he fronted back in high school. At the same time he
began dating Erica Faber.
After graduation the couple moved to Los Angeles to pursue
higher education and rock & roll stardom. Zach fronted a couple of
moderately successful bands, Long Dead & Gone and My Pain. By
the early 90s, inter-band conflicts and the untenable “pay to play”
policies of the Sunset Strip rock clubs sucked the fun out of the music.
To quote Gladys Knight, “L.A. proved too much for the man.”
So Zach and Erica returned to the desert with a mission.
Erica learned to play Bass guitar, they found a drummer (the first of
many), and Dali’s Llama was born.
Their 1993 debut, Pre-Post Now was a concise slice
of pop-punk. Nearly two decades in, Zach and Erica have balanced
family life, (raising their own punk rockers, Sage and Zane) with making
music. Influences as disparate as the Who, Albert Ayler, Black Sabbath,
Neil Young and Dinosaur Jr. cropped up on successive Dali’s Llama CDs.
Zach also found time for side projects like his Primordial Blues
band and three folky solo records. On their 2010 effort, Howl Do You
Do, Dali’s Llama managed to pay homage to the psychobilly of the Cramps
and the proto-garage rock of the Sonics.
2012 finds the band back with their 10th release, Autumn Woods.
Whipcrack power chords open the album on “Bad Dreams.” The song
moves with cyclonic speed until it suddenly shudders to a halt idling in
a grinding groove. Snaking through this aural maelstrom is Zach’s
Three songs tackle topical themes here. On “Goatface”
roiling guitars collide with a pummeling backbeat. Huskey’s strafing
guitar riffs hit like a physical assault, which feels apt, since the lyrics
decry child abuse.
Anchored by a see-saw rhythm, and Huskey’s searing
guitar fills, “The Gods” is a thoughtful denunciation of organized
religion: “Man made gods, Gods kill man…Believe our ways or go
to war.” The instrumental coda starts slow with Huskey’s filigreed
finger-picking then the tempo increases, head-banging full tilt and
concluding with his buzz saw solo.
Finally, “Blow Holes & Fur” is a stinging commentary
on macro-evolution. Drummer Craig Brown beats out a stuttery
tattoo, matched by Erica’s supple bass lines and Rhythm Guitarist
Joe Wangler’s downstroke riffs. The skeleton of Zach’s solo recalls
Deep Purple’s “My Woman From Tokyo.”
The title track is the album’s centerpiece, clocking in
at close to 10 minutes. The song opens with dour chords and Huskey’s
sepulchral vocals. The repetitious arrangement becomes hypnotic
leavened by Huskey’s sweetly spiraling fills.
This song, a testament to the power of nature,
is thick, viscous and magnificent. As the song concludes
time signatures shift and he lets loose a gritty cascade of
notes that detonate like smart bombs. Autumn Woods
is a thrilling tour de force.
The best tracks here are “Nostalgia” and “O.K.
Freak Out.” The former is a playful recollection of teenage
Punk Rock rebellion… “Riots rock when you’re young!”
The melody rumbles and swaggers. Huskey’s oscillating solo
suddenly switches gears double-tracking with a Rush-like
The latter lives up to it’s title, “O.K. Freak Out”
serves as a showcase for Huskey’s virtuoso riff-age.
Riding roughshod over a dense churning melody, the lyrics
(about being trapped at work when nice weather beckons),
take a back seat. Huskey executes one face-melting solo
after the next, shredding with sharp-shooter accuracy.
Exhaling like a post-coital cigarette, the album closes
with “Resolve.” Slow and contemplative, the tune is powered
by intertwining acoustic and electric guitars. The lyrics celebrate
the catharsis that performing live music provides.
The nucleus of Dali’s Llama has always been Zach and
Erica, but the addition of drummer Craig Brown and Rhythm Guitarist
Joe Wangler is a good fit. Autumn Woods is a worthy addition
to the Dali’s Llama canon.
It’s safe to say that 20 years from now Zach will still be yowling,
growling and shredding and Erica will be providing solid ballast to some
new Dali’s Llama music. Keeping the Desert Rock legacy alive one album
at a time.
When people talk about Desert Rock (or the less