The Warlocks’ “Mirror Explodes” And The Shards Shine Darkly

When L.A. psychedelic masters The Warlocks released 2003’s Phoenix, it was filled with enough exuberance for a Modern Lovers album.  “Shake The Dope Out” even kinda sounded like “Roadrunner.”  And then there was “Baby Blue,” as sweet a confection of SoCal Britpop as anything produced by BJM or members of the Paisley Underground.

But things got darker from there, witness the titles of their next two albums — Surgery and Heavy Deavey Skull Lover. This was disappointing, because at their best, The Warlock’s were the Alpha dogs of the nascent American neopsychedelic scene — big brothers to the Black Angels, regional counterparts to Vancouver’s Black Mountain.  They are the grandparents of First Communion After Party, the ones that show up and leave cigarettes in the punch bowl and ashes right next to the rosary that was the gift of Aunt Martha. They could bash their way darkly through six-minute guitar fests with Bobby Heksher singing like some exile from The Darkside, like maybe the member of Spaceman 3 who was left on launch pad because he was just too heavy to get into orbit.  Call him Spaceman 4.

Now comes The Mirror Explodes, and it’s the best thing they’ve done in six years. Maybe the concoctions they consume keep them from ever returning to the relative innocence of their Phoenix days, but they’ve sure resurrected themselves from the ashes. Okay, so the opening song sounds like late ’80s Sonic Youth, and surely “There Is A Formula To Your Despair” was swiped from Kramer’s apartment after an early Galaxie 500 session.  But these are compliments, man.  They’ve got a little of their swagger back, even if it’s 33 RPM swagger in a 45 RPM world.  The Mirror Explodes, and after you duck, you realize things are shining brightly all around the room.

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