Recent years have left absolutely no one wanting for the sounds of classic rock. Scores of new artists looking to revisit and relive the hard stoned sounds of the late ‘60s and 70s continue to emerge fully formed on niche independent imprints like Small Stone and Tee Pee as well as broader metal labels such as Metal Blade and Nuclear Blast. Their influences are a Sunday newspaper word jumble of evocative band names like Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Crazy Horse, Deep Purple, Free, Led Zeppelin, Stooges, Thin Lizzy, and on and on in that manner. The arrival of this steady wave of dope-smoking, paganism-peddling revival rockers serves as a countervailing force against the present state of major label hard rock, symbolized by amphitheater seat fillers like Daughtry and Nickelback. Despite the familiar charges continually levied against those latter acts, at least their music resonates with something beyond satisfying a mere nostalgic twinge, something that many of these fresh beardos are too young to even legitimately experience.
We can almost forgive the Nordic countries for their part in all of this, given a long history with fetishization. Indeed, Graveyard and Witchcraft—two sides of the same Swedish krona—have made particularly entertaining records mining the past with occult flair. Frequently compared to Blue Oyster Cult, the shadowy Scandinavians of Ghost B.C. seem preoccupied with stateside rock and schlock Satanism like so many European acts before them. By contrast, much of the American output from this new wave have consumed themselves so much with aping a dead sound that their execution begets lifelessness. Regional bonafides often add some vitality to the faithful regurgitations, but much like the current slew of sludge metal acts, memorable material remains scarce. While there are a fair number of exceptional acts circling the lower forty-eight, Hot Lunch simply is not one of them.
In spite of themselves, the San Francisco act does whip up a decent heady protopunk blues on its self-titled debut. Surely, that tradition and the stubborn present state of their freewheelin’ hometown matches the record’s grimy old tone. Yet nowhere on Hot Lunch does songcraft move beyond rote emulation of the grizzled hard rock gods, unsung or otherwise. Of course, once expectations are lowered there’s a handful of laid back burners and skate rock jams. The band have a firm handle on the short-and-sweet cuts, with “You’re Alright” and “She Wants More” succinctly summing up its strengths. “Killer Smile” actually soars through fuzzed out wah pedal boogie and the sort of unbridled sexually charged fury that Wolfmother once tried so hard to bottle.
It’s after the three-and-a-half minute mark that patience wears thin, with noodly divertissements on tracks like “Ripped At The Seam” and “Tragedy Prevention” poor attempts to mask non-starter verses and choruses. Outright misses are rare, though still present. “Lady Of The Lake” reeks of self-parody, with a female spoken word recitation that’s hard not to chuckle over. At nearly eight minutes in length and situated some five songs in, it’s the most glaring example of the rock caricature the band can’t seem to write its way out of.