Sunday, January 3, 2010
The Mike Gunn
In terms of "obscure nonpareils of turn-of-the-decade stoner rock," you're unlikely to eclipse this band. The primary reason being, of course, how horribly under-appreciated they are. But then again, they hail from Texas, a veritable wellspring of indie rock (think: Butthole Surfers, Spoon, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Okkervil River, Shearwater...) not to mention the birthplace of psychedelia itself (13th Floor Elevators). It seems only natural that someone would deign to challenge that identity.
And that's exactly what The Mike Gunn did. In their short existence they managed to churn out one studio LP and one compilation -- both excellent records in their own merit. What seemed to be their defining trait was their great aptitude for rhythmic, pounding psychedelic rock, something today that's oft attempted but rarely excelled at. It would be folly to draw comparisons to Kyuss or Fu Manchu without first prefacing their propensity for free-structured jam; indeed, they were a much larger product of the protective Houston psychedelia scene than any turgid drony space hymns courtesy of Black Sabbath or Saint Vitus. The result: a unique melting pot of driving rhythms borrowing liberally from the psychedelia handbook, what would today be sniped in generalization "stoner rock."
I chose their studio album Almaron in part because it sounds far more cohesive than their compilation of tracks, but also because it contains perhaps my favorite stoner rock song ever. In truth it's obvious that this record wasn't professionally engineered; many of the songs sound like they were written between shifts inside a warehouse somewhere. But the thin production certainly complements the diminutive nasal respirations, and it's easy to hear their fervor. I'm not quite sure what "it" is, but they had it.