Returning after a sleepy three year pause, transplanted Los Angeles psych-rock unit Dead Meadow return with Warble Womb.
It’s been more than a year ago on this day when on a debauched Friday night outing with the wife I discovered it… Dead Meadow’s Miller Lite commercial! I remember like it was yesterday; my back turned to the bar in an almost successful attempt to drown out the sounds of some athletic event or other being televised that night, when all of a sudden the instantly recognizable fuzzy-wuzzy tone of the opening riff to their 2000 self-titled debut began to blare in background of that scale model of a limey watering hole. “What the F?!”
That must have been a nice little payday for Dead Meadow, who have been at their grind since 1998, and up until Warble Womb have been putting out consistently good stoner/psych-rock, so kudos to them. Certainly there should be some compensation for their career thus far! The final thought that emerged from my hazy, Ale-soaked deductive reasoning, however, was that perhaps this commercial marked the Dead Meadow’s “jump-the-shark” moment. Was this the juncture of their career from which they just won’t be the same?
One of the oldest preconceptions held by die-hard fans of off-the-beaten-path music is that once commercial success is attained (no matter how miniscule), all musical value goes right out the window. Starved art is meaningful art, yadda-yadda-yadda! While this theorem can’t really be proven to be true, it cannot be disproven either; and Warble Womb doesn’t do much to convince me that any type of mainstreaming is a nail in the coffin that will house the corpse of a band’s “cool” factor.
The problem with Warble Womb is that quite simply it’’ a boring record! It has none of the vibrancy that this band has been known to generate even when sluggishly making their way through some of their sleepier numbers. Warm and quiet are two qualities of Dead Meadow’s sound that have been ever-present in their sound, but in the past there has always been this mild eeriness lingering in the back that would keep you engaged through to the end of the record. Good luck trying to get through tracks one and two on this double decker… just 60 more minutes to go!
Beyond the second track, listening to this double album is nothing short of a chore. The remaining program becomes an amorphous haze of forgetfulness, one song lulls to the next with all of the excitement an afternoon nap. Phoned-in would be an understatement if describing the band’s performance here. Mailed-in seems the better phrase to use, as each song takes virtually forever to drive a point home that at the end just wasn’t worth the time it took to make a very fragile point. None of their exciting hard rock riffing make appearance at any time during this 75-minute coma, almost ensuring that from here on out that I will be parting ways with Dead Meadow.
They say that quitters never win, and that’s all fine and good, but I shouldn’t feel like I’m competing against a record, and Dead Meadow won. They have defeated me. After an hour and change of mind-numbing, ponderous songs, the thought of ever committing to one of their records again is equivalent to volunteering for Chinese water torture. Unless of course, the boys decide to lay off of the opioids, cut the crap and cut another record like Howls From the Hills or Shivering King and Others. Wake me if they do!