When the Northwest psychedelic rock band Screaming Trees came to an end, most people looked to singer Mark Lanegan for future lightning bolts from beyond. Lanegan's solo work has certainly been interesting, with moments of brilliance nudging up against nuggets of mediocrity (kind of like the Trees' stuff, to be honest). But the most consistent music from the camp of ex-Trees comes from bassist-turned-guitarist Van Conner and his band Valis. On its second album Head Full of Pills, Valis revels in the acid rock the Trees were abandoning near the end of their life span. Conner and his guitarist brother Patrick spray the landscape with electrifying riffs and solos seemingly extracted straight from the heart of a star, as drummer Sean Hollister and bassist Adrian Makins keep the rhythms anchored to the planetary surface. Wes Weresch, credited only with "trip," adds appropriately spacy noises with a variety of keys, electronics and tape manipulations, his efforts compounding the space rocking vibe. Van sings as if he's in a rocket zooming past, sounding clear but distant at the same time, desperately trying to get his message across the galaxy. His voice isn't as distinctive as his former bandmate's, but it's still a strong instrument, given appropriate treatment here. The band races swiftly but steadily through a bucketful of strong tunes, as light on its feet as it is heavy in its stride. The Conners and company give roaring rockers like "Motorbike" and the politically-minded "World in Decay" and "We Got a Situation" just the right touch of third-eye otherworldliness. At the same time they also revolve more obviously acid-drenched anthems like "Across the Sky," "Voyager" and "Perpetual Motion Machine" around an earthy axis. Melodies and hooks abound, even as the quintet never lets up on the nuclear energy. Head Full of Pills is the space rock epic Hawkwind never made, the psychedelic masterpiece Monster Magnet doesn't quite seem capable of conjuring, and a career high Valis will find it difficult to match. But it'll be a trip hearing them try.
released 12 October 2004
Van Conner: Vocals, Lead Guitar
Patrick Conner: Lead Guitar, Vocals
Adrian Makins: Bass, Vocals
Sean Hollister: Drums
Wes Weresch: Trip
Produced by Van and Wes.
Mixed and Engineered by Wes,
2nd Engineer Dawn Pfund.
Mastered by Chis Goosman @ Baseline Audio Labs - Ann Arbor, MI.
Cover Design and Layout: James Bender of Thrill Industries .
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