Bongcleaner-Bongxiety EP review by Myles. FFO: Sludge, doom and Stoner magic.
Stoners, the Stones and Non-New-Orleanian Jazz
Funerals, A Bongcleaner Review:
Written by M H Thomson.
Bongcleaner has long been one of my favourite local Melbournian sludge
acts. I have had the pleasure of sharing the stage and hanging out with this
trio of loveable reprobates on enough occasions I have long since lost count.
Comprising of bassist and vocalist Mike Ernest, guitarist Ell Garcia, and
drummer Jordan Stixx, the group have finally gotten around to recording
something. The remainder of this article is my thoughts, track by track on the
fruits of their recent first foray into the studio, it’s titled Bongxiety.
The band's title track opens with one of my favourite types of sludge doom riffs, that of the slow swinging bluesier that sounds like an old Rolling Stones 45 being played at 33rpm, albeit in a tuning so low the bass response registers on the Richter scale (i.e. not exactly Keith Richards preferred open G). When the vocals kick in, about a minute in, they sit just high enough in the mix to be heard intelligibly but not loud enough to overpower the mighty weight of the riff; and yes that’s riff singular, there is just the one. Bongcleaner has quite the penchant for writing these tireless riffs, they just jam on all day, and this track is no exception. The lyrical content is fittingly lateral, dealing with the question of whether or not to clean your bong, some stoners like the taste of residue build up in their cones apparently, I wouldn't know I’m not a stoner. A killer track to open with nonetheless.
This has always been my most treasured number in their sets historically, Mike’s chugging bass line perfectly punctuated by Ell and Jordan’s abrupt stabs that pack the bulk of the wallop in this immensely punchy intro. This pounding stab motif reappears multiple times throughout the track, its repetition never diminishing its mammoth impact one iota. This track is mostly another huge southern blues groove, but with a bit more variety this time; there are actually discernible verse and chorus riffs present. The lyrics here deal with foraging in the outback for “ahem… herbal remedies” and striking the jackpot. A suitably spacey-sounding synth swirling around amidst the verses is a nice touch; a nod to the trippy nature of the tune. It’s mid-tempo bangers like this where Bongcleaner really hit their stride, and I fucking love it.
With just the slightest of changes in lyrical direction, this track seems to be about someone doing blow rather than pot. Another one riff wonder, this one more redolent of something off Eyehategod’s “A Confederacy of Ruined Lives” than anything penned by the Glimmer Twins (slightly ironic considering those bands' respective drug habits, but I digress). The track quickly settles into its groove and glues itself there, the group playing with the dynamics just enough for the hook to remain interesting. This one is more short and sweet than others on this record but it’s not missing anything. As ever solid as fuck.
The principal riff is a chugging stomper of a thing that's always put me in mind of the main riff to Iron Maiden's “Phantom of the Opera”' just played at a glacial pace. The song A/B’s between the gallop of the verse and the sludge mastery of the post verse in a driving flow. This galloping chug is often more felt than heard, as it can be at times difficult to decipher it amongst the ever-present distortion of the amps being pushed to near feedback; those poor old tubes sound like they’re just barely holding it together. I’m still unsure what exactly the verses are referring to, it’s clearly bong-related anxiety but whether it be drawn from other stoners, dealers, the bong itself, or all of the above is still unclear to me. Regardless of my misunderstandings, it stands as an exemplary specimen of Mike’s delightful “it does what says on the tin” approach to writing lyrics. Another corker of a tune!
True to form, it appears to be yet another single riffer until you hit the final verse at the 5-minute mark. The main riff varies in intensity between the verses and the instrumental sections of the tune, this contrast really lends a lot of weight to the heavier instrumental parts balanced against the quieter, cleaner verses. The riff itself quite comfortably occupies the “we jazzed up a funeral dirge” category of the sludge doom canon, and rightfully so, as the lyrics serve as what is effectively a eulogy to a failed experiment in hydroponic growing. Owing to Bongcleaners tongue-in-cheek nature this track serves as an apt, fun yet sombre note to end the record on.
Overall I reckon this album is a masterpiece. The archetype in my book of how to do stoner doom sludge right. Groovy, hooky, heavy, no frills and no fucking about. Don’t get me wrong I love a guitar solo, but quite unlike Metallica’s wretched “St Anger” this record doesn’t need them. Jordan’s (as yet unmentioned) occasional and tasteful drum fills are often all the variety they need, and so that’s all you get. It’s simple, it’s brilliant, and it’s a welcome sight for me, as having heard these songs so frequently over the years, I can finally play them when I get them stuck in my head, which is all the fucking time. Bravo Bongcleaner, you have comprehensively smashed it outta the park!.
Support these awesome humans hard!.