The Warlocks: The Mirror Explodes

Harry Burson

The Los Angeles group continues aimless drifting through the world of shoegaze.

The Warlocks

The Mirror Explodes

Label: Teepee
US Release Date: 2009-05-19
UK Release Date: 2009-05-18

Yes, the band shares a name with early incarnations of the Grateful Dead, Velvet Underground and – let us not forget -- ZZ Top. And its sound does aggressively recall critical darlings My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain. Plus, would-be mastermind Bobby Hecksher has played with both the Brian Jonestown Massacre and Beck. But the Warlocks fail to live up to its impressive pedigree on its fifth proper album, The Mirror Explodes, a dim facsimile of its heroes' brilliance.

Since forming in Los Angeles in 1999, the Warlocks have persisted long enough to see the success of several bands doing the same dreamy, fuzz-rock shtick (most notably the Black Angels and the Raveonettes) without finding much success. Perhaps Bobby Hecksher and co. didn't deserve to lose its contract with Mute after the commercial failure of the 2005 album Surgery, but the acute listlessness of the its subsequent output has done little to bolster regard for Tee Pee Records, former home of the band's old buddies Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Since signing to Tee Pee, the Warlocks have altered its sound slightly, abandoning the straight side two of White Light/White Heat homage that characterized its early material in favor of a lateral move into shoegaze. The Mirror Explodes finds Bobby Hecksher fronting an entirely new cast of sidemen through a wholly monochromatic set of eight fuzzy, reverb-drenched and indistinguishable tunes.

Like Kevin Shields, Hecksher keeps his vocals soft and distant, just another instrument meant to mesh with the white noise of the Warlocks' three-guitar assault. The lyrics are mostly indistinguishable, save a fleeting reference to a hospital on "Red Camera" and oblique statements of alienation and misery on "There is a Formula to Your Despair", all in keeping with the group's druggy persona and the oppressively dreary soundscapes.

The songs have no peaks or valleys, just a constant drone that eventually yields to the next track without fanfare. Everything is at the same dirge-like tempo, making the record seem to be one extended, formless jam. When the vocals drop out completely for an instrumental showcase on "Frequency Meltdown", the band neglects to alter its formula, stubbornly soldiering on with the same pointless meandering. Thankfully, the band refrains from the extended jams that showed up on their previous albums, never making any cut last much over six minutes, arbitrarily ending most around the five-minute mark.

Such apparently amorphous monotony would be forgivable if repeated listens revealed some sort of intention or structure or if Hecksher imbued his music with any sort of meaning. No amount of time with the disc, however, will make The Mirror Explodes any less impenetrable. Apparently, Hecksher just likes his music noisy, druggy and slow. And that doesn't make for a listening experience any more compelling than it sounds.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.