California X really don’t care about the criticisms that normally fall upon bands whose entire premise essentially revolves around music of the past. And you often find that band’s who don’t care about these things pay off much better in the end. Their debut self-titled album was a solid record where they wore their influences on their sleeves, with a definite calling to bands like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr and many other Indie bands from the late 80s/ early – mid 90s. It was a record that packed lots of punches in terms of having heavy riffs and pummeling drums but left a lot to be desired in the song-writing. It sometimes felt like California X sometimes lacked the ambition and the ability to pull al of their influences together to create something entirely original. Regardless of that the record still felt like the sort of record that was definitely inspired and the spirit was there in this promising band.
Good news; the spirit of this band remains very much intact on this new record and they’re also sounding much more ambitious than their first album. They’re still packing heavy riffs but with an extra guitarist this time to give them an even more gutsy sound. This album often reminds me of Weezer’s classic album ‘Pinkerton’ in that they’re fusing that heavy sound of their influences with some of their own pop sensibilities. One of the biggest changes on this record is in their actual guitar solos, they have definitely been consuming a lot of different types of Metal before making this record as it has it’s blueprints all over it. Right from the first chord on the opening title track you can hear the distorted guitar throbbing that could be taken from a Doom Metal track. This rumbles on before they break out into the more upbeat madness you’d expect from the band, with power chords with sweet vocal melodies. There’s also the type of squealing solos you’d expect from a Metal band on the record, but mixed into the instrumentation so well that at first you don’t even notice.
The band’s ambition stretches further in the second half of the record where there are two instances of there being tracks split into two parts with ‘Blackrazor, Pt1’ and ‘Blackrazor, Pt2’ working brilliantly; it uses part 1 as a psychedelic build up infused with grumbling guitars and tortured vocals before part 2 comes in with all guns blazing. The second half of the record pretty much functions on an instrumental level alone and it doesn’t feel like California X have made this decision for it to sound like this based on criticisms, but based on the fact that it’s the music that they’d want to hear. There is even an acoustic instrumental on this record and another short instrumental that somehow manages to sneak a little piano in there. This band really do whatever they please.
The bad news about this record is that for all of their brilliant instrumentation that will surely capture the hearts of many, they still only sound like a ‘promising’ band rather than a fully formed band. Their song-writing does need a fair amount of work still; too many times on this record does it feel like the vocals are being pushed right to the back in their mixing so that it doesn’t soften their sound. Because of this a lot of the great melodies that are on here really don’t stick and there are next to no lyrics that will stick with you on first listen.
This is by no means saying that this makes it a bad record; the positives really do outweigh any negatives on this record. It’s just the things the negatives that there are on this record are really holding back this good band from becoming the great or even amazing band that they most definitely have the potential to.