...Into The Exam Room
posted on 3/2008 By:
If you’ve heard of Hermano, you’ve probably also heard of now-extinct desert rock progenitors Kyuss. Both are lucky enough to have (had) John Garcia man the mic, but of the groups that materialized after the breakup of Kyuss (Queens of the Stone Age, Mondo Generator, etc.), Garcia’s have always been more, well… underappreciated. While ex-Kyuss guitarist Josh Homme was busy getting Grammy nominations with QOTSA, Garcia was grinding it out, jamming with Slo Burn, Unida and now Hermano. Unida’s Coping With the Urban Coyote became an immortal cult classic, but label issues shelved the band’s second effort, and eventually the band dissolved. Garcia went on to record two lukewarm studio LPs and a live album with Hermano, and so it seems this Garcia incarnation could be here to stay.
But there’s more to Hermano than just Garcia’s stoner rock legacy – the band also features Mike Callahan (Earshot) on guitar and Chris Leathers (Supafuzz) on drums. Despite this, I just couldn’t get into the first two Hermano albums. I wanted to, but they just sounded uninspired to me. As a result I had low expectations for their new effort, …Into the Exam Room. At first listen it struck me as a damn fine record. Thinking this might be due to those low expectations going in I spun it again. And again. And again. Rather than revealing deeper flaws, …Into the Exam Room actually grew on me. What the album is not is an instant classic, a technical masterpiece or a future platinum seller. Rather, it’s a bunch of raw garage-rock songs that bring to mind Garcia’s past high points (pun intended) while adding a modern flair for straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll.
Opening number “Kentucky” starts with the sound of a revving engine, which comes off as more than a little cheesy. The song quickly rights itself with Garcia’s trademark falsetto over an urgent bass line/cymbal intro that sets the pace for this uptempo garage jam. The song kicks into high gear with Garcia & Co. putting on their hard rock hats before too long, and the simple chorus of “KENTUCKAYY!!” fits its bucking, groovy riffage like a glove. It’s clear that this Hermano release, touted as being the band’s “most emotional” disc yet, has what its predecessors lacked: a soul.
The second track makes unfortunate use of a talkbox, evoking bad memories of Bon Jovi, but contains a worthwhile solo. “Dark Horse II” shows …Into the Exam Room’s coy alter ego, with a mellow acoustic guitar paired with a “slow burn” electric that sticks to the high side of the scale. All this is again combined with Garcia’s slithering falsetto, and makes for a cool and slick addition to Hermano’s catalog. “Left Side Bleeding” returns to the rollicking jam session started on “Kentucky,” with continued novel songwriting.
The strange thing about Hermano is that the members are scattered across the country, recording each instrument individually and mailing the tracks to each other. They were never in the same room during recording, which makes the prevailing “jam room” vibe curious, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. The bottom line with …Into the Exam Room is that it’s another installment of the current buzzword. It’s fun. It’s a bit of rock ‘n’ roll fluff, but what it lacks in substance, it makes up for in catchiness and replay value. About half the disc is the coy, funky Hermano, reminiscent of Kyuss, with the other half rocking the shit all the way to the post office. Above average hard rocking for people who have heard the term “desert rock."
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