Fuzz II

[In The Red; 2015]

Styles: rock, metal, stoner rock, musical reenactment
Others: Black Sabbath, Iron Butterfly, Blue Cheer, Fu Manchu, Kyuss

If the sophomore album of stoner/classic metal troupe Fuzz reminds us of anything, it’s that music is its own museum. The album’s hard-edge grooves and fattened riffs almost perfectly recreate the era of Black Sabbath, Iron Butterfly, and Mountain, celebrating an age of long hair, curiously smelly leather jackets, and eroticized guitar solos. Yet at the same time, its loving quotation of the past serves as a selfish legitimation and exaltation of itself, of its own value as an album. Its bong-rattling guitars and snake-charming bass invoke a selectively narrowed image of what past rock was during its glory days, and then rely on such a hallowed yet partial image to confer worthiness and worth on its correspondingly limited exercises in headbanging. Through its furry jams and hurtling fretwork, it says “this is how our rock heritage was” and “this is us laudably keeping such rock alive,” and even if there are moments that make II a rollicking listen, this arguably cynical move in engineering an idealized past so as to valorize an inadequate present tarnishes some of its historiographical luster.

Don’t get me wrong: II checks all the right boxes as a party-making “rawk” album. The appropriately titled opener “Time Collapse II/The 7th Terror” is an excitable medley of hard-hitting drives from Charlie Moothart and uppity whelps from Mr. Ty Segall (this time on drums), ascending the gears at just the right moments and flowing from one sinuous movement to the next with powerful finesse. Likewise, such tracks as “Rat Race” and “Let It Live” have a brash grace and “classic” smoothness about them that could dupe even the most dedicated of anoraks into thinking they’re listening to a band from the 1970s, while “Pollinate,” “Red Flag,” and “Pipe” are tinged with just enough heaviness and aggression to keep the interest of those who’ve been desensitized to the likes of Black Sabbath by the decades of grumpier bands who followed after them.

That said, all this studious box-ticking and attention-to-detail comes at a price, which is that II becomes more of a tribute to the music of yesteryear than, say, a work of art that’s relevant to the world surrounding it. This might be hunky-dory if you like tributes, but the thing is, the rock and metal it piously reveres was so great precisely because it challenged and changed prevalent convention, because it contained an inherent criticism of the increasingly safe rock & roll and pop that had preceded it. However, by sticking to the style of the groups Fuzz palpably idolize, chunky songs like “Burning Wreath” and “Say Hello” clearly challenge and change nothing. Their winding distortion and lumbering workouts cling to the letter of a Blue Cheer or a Black Sabbath but not to the spirit, and for this reason they also fail as tributes, since the only thing they reproduce is the superficial, outward form rebellion and individuality once assumed in a past life, not actual rebellion and individuality.

This doesn’t alter the fact that much of II is well-executed fun, delivered by a trio whose tightness as musicians and songwriters has improved since their 2013 debut. Nonetheless, it does lend further weight to the idea that conjuring the holy ghost of pioneering late-60s/early-70s rock to halo a completely non-pioneering band is maybe wrong on an artistic or even moral level. Sure, the closing title track is an epic trip through blazing instrumentation and dynamic interplay, yet like with all museums, its scattering guitar solos appeal to romanticized years gone by at least as much to glorify those who curated it as to glorify the past. The question is, does this kind of one-sided appropriation make it a bad album? Maybe not, but it does make it more of a museum of itself and its own alleged importance than a museum of anything else.

Links: Fuzz - In The Red

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