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Various Artists

Inhale 420: the Stoner Rock Compilation

(Spitfire)

Here comes death. This is a real bumper crop of heavy doom metal. This compilation is some kind of bongazilla harvest of sludge heavy on the fuzz jam that no one, including the most thrashed out heavy metal monster, has ever heard. A record company attracted to the green stuff stashed in the pockets of teenagers has no shame. I think the executives themselves invent the new genres for their product like “stoner rock”. They’ve got money to burn, so like the engineers said in the studio and the paper said to the weed, “Let’s roll!”


I had my head held under water by the opening cut, a gloomy solid wall of noise that rendered unfit and made an anti-hit of Gary Wright’s ‘70s sweet pop staple “Dream Weaver”. If Gary’s Wright, then they wanna be wrong. It might be true that saying your life flashes before your eyes as you’re drowning. But damn this society straight to hell, wouldn’t you know it—my synaptic relapse was straight from the only snippet of any television show I saw in 1970. Unless you have the good sense to stop reading now, you will soon be there with me, and we are going down for the last time.


Striped madras curtains flutter on an open window. Inside, bearded and unkempt television hippies lounge on a battered unsprung thrift store sofa. Camera pans to the still-smoldering bowl of the cheap India Imports water pipe. Telltale fingers of smoke wisp out the window as the loud music gains voice, “In a white room. With black curtains. There before me.” A hippie who is at one with Ginger Baker who is playing as though he were at one with Eric Clapton pounds out doubles of the guitar rhythms on his thigh. Sgt. Friday and his sidekick climb rickety stairs to pause on the beaten wooden porch. Attracted from street patrol by the blaring music, they are in their predictable episodic state of moral outrage. Adding insult to injury, they recognize a certain “odure” wafting from the window. They rap heavily on the door held together only by the peeling paint. Dum dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum dum. Kick out the jams and heavy on the fuzz.


The following year 1971 was the year heavy metal was bestowed a genre by Creem. The music was gentler back then if you think back to that early penchant Jimi Hendrix had for distortion and controlled feedback. But “stoner rock” is a brand-new hazy genre for the guitar-heavy, though the hybridized offshoot stems from the influence of “seed” groups Black Sabbath and AC/DC. Their influence is undeniable here even though mutated into less subtle form. Their original essence overexaggerated after three decades of attempted bloom in garages without enough light. Just like the mutated pot leaf used as a totem on the cover, “stoner rock” is an example of forced evolution.


You just know “stoner rock” is an invention of the record companies. And Inhale 420? The following definition is provided only for background and guidance and should not be considered as ‘authoritative’. 420 is a euphemism or code for marijuana or smoking marijuana, according to the Glossary of Drug-Related Slang (Street Language). That’s because marijuana is reported to contain 420 different chemicals and 420 bonds make that THC molecule quite stable. Any 10-year-old can tell you that. But the record company felt obliged to draw us a picture.


Some young children still naïve enough to believe there is truth in packaging may be disappointed with the obvious, that none of the songs on this “baker’s” dozen actually has anything to do with dope, so why claim it does? Aside from vague associations with titles like “Straightliner”, “Mr. Policeman”, “Devil’s Garden”, “Alohawaii” and “High Horses”. Or the two groups with obtusely doper names, “Sixty Watt Shaman” and the “Bakerton Group” (you know, like “baked”.) How can you tell if the people associated with this record are true stoners? They read the short song titles and skip the long ones.


Metal’s metal. “Stoner rock” as a genre suddenly popped up and to pretend this is a separate genre is silly. It reminds me of the desperate record company executive who got loaded and sincerely said to the bands, “I had a good idea once, but I can’t remember what it was.” Just cram it in the pipe and with the right distribution make half a million metal freaks 20 dollars poorer. As to whether they’ll like it after buying will all boil down to taste. But I’ll bet most will be sorry they parted with that particular 20 for whichever one track it is they dig from this mixed baggie.

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