Henry Blacker – The Making of Junior Bonner

Posted: 20 July 2018 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , ,

16th April 2018 – Riot Season Records

Christopher Nosnibor

For the love, not the money, Every time. I fell out of the loop, and missed out on the promo and wasn’t even aware that one of my favourite active bands had a new album out. And that’s reason to write about it. I feel I somehow owe the band for all of the killer music so far, and owe it to myself for posterity. So, I’m playing catch-up here with the Hey Colossus offshoot, and immediately, what strikes is the grit of the guitar and the murky production that renders The Making of Junio Bonner possibly their grimiest effort to date.

It’s the combination of spindly lead guitar lines that loop over the bowel-bothering bass frequencies before dissolving into overdriven sludge, coupled with the cool-as-fuck drawling vocals that does it. And yes, it’s pure 90s grunge, with big nods to Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, but with the dingy, greasy, rough-hewn raggedness of Tad. Do I like Henry Blacker for being an allusive throwback? Inevitably, grunge is in my DNA having immersed myself in all the bands of the day in my mid-late teens in the mid-late 90s. But no: Henry Blacker don’t evoke nostalgia. However much their template may be of an era, their music is timeless. Because good music is.

Initial spins don’t reveal any instant grabs like ‘Pullin’ Like a Dray’, ‘Cold Laking’, or ‘The Grain’, but then again, it’s time spent with Henry Blacker that allows the growers to emerge: over time, their previous two albums have proved themselves to be solid gold, albeit caked in mud and shit. And perhaps the lack of standouts is an indicator of its absolute consistency: all the songs are equal, and all are equally solid. And solid is the word. The back-to-back dispatching of songs centred around cyclical grooves and relentless riffery places it in the same space occupied by Nirvana’s debut. It grafts and grinds, hawks and chisels away, snarling, spitting, raging.

‘Shingles to the Floor’ is almost an accessible rock tune when you wipe it down. The classic rock intro on ‘Cellmate’ gives way to a panelling, thick, grungy riff that hits that sweet spot of optimum density, where the guitars fill the speakers with a distortion that threatens to overload them with a fuzz that sounds like tearing cardboard while the bass isn’t something you hear but feel. The mangled vocals, half buried, are the perfect addition.

‘Keep it Out of Your Heart’ locks into a thick, stoner groove that Queens of the Stone Age would likely kill to replicate these days. It has a certain overloaded smoothness and a swagger that chugs and chunks as it drives onwards. And maybe it’s one of those tracks that grows as a standout after just a few plays after all…

The density of sound, the way the riffs churn in on themselves and repeat as they snarl and grate, all combine to build a claustrophobic intensity. There’s no room to breathe here, and there’s no slow-tempo lighter-waving anthem at the end of side one: it’s truly end-to-end in conception and delivery.

AA

Henry Blacker

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