Label: Australian Cattle God
Released: September 6, 2005
First and foremost, Tia Carrera is a stoner rock band. This is not the long-dreaded release of Sweet covers by the largely forgotten Wayne’s World star. It’s a bad name, but that’s where the bad stops.
The stoner rock field has gotten fairly crowded over the last ten years and it gets harder and harder for these channelers of Black Sabbath to stand out. I mean, how many different ways can you just be heavy? Not too many and most of those avenues have now been well-traveled. But Tia Carrera has found a new path. They play in the major leagues of loud, yet unlike that of so many of their peers, their music often caresses rather than bludgeons.
Tia Carrera raise the stakes immediately with the brief opening track, “Telepathic Confirmation,” channeling the unrestrained feedback-heavy mania of Hendrix. They immediately go all in with “Scenic Oversight.” Its textured heaviness of loose but deliberate rhythms and countering bass lines plays host to beautiful delicate leads. At five and a half minutes, it acts almost as an overture for the album, setting the lay of the musical landscape that the band describes in detail over the final three (considerably longer) tracks.
“As She Sleeps” is a psychedelic roller coaster that runs from low-key sludge to unrestrained frenzy and back again with several stops for sensory overload along the way. It finally winds down into what seems like studio noodling rather than a traditional ending. It might seem odd, but this is not the kind of song that wants to do things the “right” way. “Doom” is exactly what the title says. It’s another long one, but much more straightforward than its predecessor. Still, the playing is so articulate that the fourteen minutes pass in time that defies the clock.
If the radio was still worth listening to, “J Bankston Manor” would become a late-night FM classic. At almost 34 minutes, it would certainly give the DJ time to do more than just use the facilities (as the old joke about “In-A-Gadda_Da-Vida” goes), but the listener would be lost in its waves of ethereal heaviness. While it doesn’t have that heavy hook to latch onto like the Iron Butterfly classic, it certainly has that underlying groove that is punctuated by great musicianship across the board.
Notice that nowhere did I mention the vocals. That’s because there are none and no one will miss them. Tia Carrera is so subtly dynamic that I had to go back to be sure I wasn’t so wrapped up in the music that I missed the vocals.
There’s no shortage of bands that are as heavy as Tia Carrera. Some are even heavier, but none can balance that heaviness with such deceptive delicacy for such a trippy, heady ride. The November Session is still a little too far out to transcend its genre, but it certainly sets a standard for the stoner rock trip (whether you’re a stoner or not).