The Atomic Bitchwax
posted on 11/2006 By:
So here we have something of an interim release for stoner rock stalwarts The Atomic Bitchwax. Boxriff is essentially a two-part album; the first half consists of four brand new studio cuts, while a thirteen-song live set makes up the second. This is a band who saw a major lineup change before the preceding 3 full-length—guitarist Ed Mundell quit to focus his energies on bong-ripping bigshots Monster Magnet—and Boxriff’s new songs see new singer/axeman Finn Ryan continue to shift the band’s sound in a more song-oriented direction. The real weight of this release comes with the live set, and Bitchwax prove here once again that they are a primarily live-oriented band.
When I say that The Atomic Bitchwax’s sound has evolved, I don’t mean it in too dramatic of a sense. These guys are still cranking out fuzzy, jammy, bluesy 70’s era hard rock, and anything else from the band wouldn’t make much sense in the context of their back catalogue. The most noticeable change is a decided throttling down of their normally frenetic pace; where their albums up to 3 were dominated by pounding rhythms and rock-hero soloing, Boxriff’s new material depends far more upon riffing and the strength of Chris Kosnik and Finn Ryan’s vocal work. “So Come On,” “Turn Me On,” and “STD” all march along at a decidedly restrained middling tempo, and there’s far more dynamic between verses and choruses than there was previously. While all four songs are relatively well-executed, it’s hard not to feel that the THC-crazed energy that originally lent The Atomic Bitchwax their appeal has faded (rimshot!) somewhat.
My worries were eased somewhat by Boxriff’s live set. Though there’s no question that the strongest performances are on the fastest songs—“Forcefield,” “Hey Alright” and “The Destroyer” are all spectacularly fun jamfests—the band seems tighter and more alive when they have an audience to interact with than when in the recording studio. This is hardly any surprise. Stoner rock in general, and The Atomic Bitchwax specifically, is live rock-out music first and foremost. Sure, the tunes don’t bear much consideration, but that’s not really the point. The entertainment value here comes from the guitar tone, the classic-rock soloing, and Keith Ackerman's bombastic drumming rather than from any sort of musical depth.
This ain’t gonna win Bitchwax any new fans, and though I personally enjoy them, there’s no question that this isn’t their strongest release. Ultimately this is recommended for previous fans of the band, stoner rock devotees, and those who have a hankering to hear a live album that actually sounds good.
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