Thursday, May 19, 2011

Retrospective: The Atomic Bitchwax

After my new computer snafu, I have been taking a lot of time to re-listen to discographies of artists I know and love. It's helped me reconnect with some bands I don't hear nearly enough, I've sussed out some new songs that I hadn't given much time to before, and it's introduced me to some albums I've missed or skipped. On the rare occasion it has opened my eyes to an act that I don't like nearly as much as previously thought. The Atomic Bitchwax is within this last category.

Don't get me wrong, I like the band, I enjoy their groove-heavy, funky, frequent instrumental style of stoner, but on another round of actually listening to the entire disc of their albums - not just the songs I pick through - I realize how little of the songs I actually enjoy off of each. For this article, I'm only focusing on the major LPs; The Atomic BitchwaxThe Atomic Bitchwax IIThe Atomic Bitchwax 3, and TAB4. I haven't heard The Local Fuzz yet (their latest) and I've never really gone through the EPs very much, so I'll save those for another day and another article.

The Atomic Bitchwax - 1999
Their debut and one of my favorites (as far as numbers go) of the group. I like the instrumentals and the mix of funk and psychedelia of the album. The only songs I know offhand, that is I've already listened to them a dozen times, are "Hope You Die" and "Stork Theme" (which is an instrumental). That being said, out of the eleven tracks on this album, six of them I enjoy above and beyond - something I could imagine listening to over and over. This isn't really bad, I know a lot more acts that have a worse album ratios at all times, but this is one of the high points for my relationship with The Atomic Bitchwax, which is kind of sad.

The Atomic Bitchwax II - 2000
Their second release, and probably my least favorite overall. There are only four of ten from II that I could really want to hear again, but none of these are truly stand-outs. nothing that I know the words to or anything. This is actually a fairly depressing notion for me, if you had asked me last week what I thought of The Atomic Bitchwax, I would have replied nothing but favorable, about how much I enjoyed their music. But as we can see, I'd be full of shit. I can't believe an entire album of a band I so-called "loved" missed my tastes pretty much completely. I'm at a loss for words.

The Atomic Bitchwax 3 - 2005
Continuing the low begun with II, 3 does fare better on the individual song quality. Once again, it's only a four of ten LP, but at least this time I know these songs by title. "The Destroyer" is one of my favorite songs by TAB and "You Oughta Know" is on that list of favorites somewhere as well. The Deep Purple cover "Maybe I'm A Leo" is probably carried on the strength of the original and the fact that I know the words very well (just like AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" off of their Spit Blood EP), but I'm counting it as a win. One song I didn't like at all, and probably the lowest point for the band, was "The Passenger" which includes auto-tuned vocals... I was a bit surprised by that one, and it really took away from the entire song. I was really grooving to the music itself, but the vocals killed it. I think this album is slowly transitioning from the earlier styles of the group, into what would become TAB4, as the songs I like are more akin to the later album (even three years later).

TAB4 - 2008
I know the fourth installment of The Atomic Bitchwax's career is the least liked by most, but it is my favorite from the group, hands down. I like the more melodic change of sound, taking a slight step away from the spacey-ness of the prior triad. Pretty much every song off of this album I can sing along to. I mean, out of the eleven tracks there are eight songs I like, and of those probably six or seven I could jam out every word. The only songs that fall behind are the opener, "Pawn Shop" mostly for the old style of which is was recorded (it's all crackly and sounds like a record from the 60s), the closer "Wreck You" which just doesn't carry any of the energy of the rest of the record, and the cover of Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine" which is just... well, Pink Floyd during their 'what?' psychedelic phase. It's a weird dichotomy between the styles and my appreciation of I, II, 3 and TAB4. I'd say I can't explain it, but I wrote the below paragraphs before I wrote this one, and down there I try to explain it, the best I can. So keep reading for why I think these albums are organized out this way.

This is actually a very depressing and eye-opening article for me. I don't know how I've gone a couple of years (or somewhere thereabouts) thinking I was a big fan of The Atomic Bitchwax. I think it all falls into your peculiar taste for the different eras (and thereby base styles) of stoner music. I'm not talking strict genres here, but base thoughts and melodies. The early stoner/the early style of stoner seems to be more routed in psychedelic themes and sounds. The songs are usually less in-depth musically, with long breaks for instrumentals, where they truly let the lead out. The newer branch/era of the genre, uses more melodic tunes and passages, more 'conventional' song types and structures. It's not something that would be readily noticeable to the casual listener, as the changes are fairly minute, but it is enough for people who are huge fans of the genre to piece apart.

I've had a couple conversations in this regard, with a some of the other writers out there and we've come to the prior notion. While you can be fans of both styles, and may have favorites that transcend through, many have a favorite style, whether they realize it or not. For me it happens to be the more modern style, which is why I think TAB4 speaks to me the way it does (see I tied it back in), while others claim that albums I through 3 are the true driving force of the band.

Wow, this article turned into a rant there at the end, which was not my original goal. However you slice it, there is a stylistic change throughout The Atomic Bitchwax's career, which some fans may not make the jump between. I am still flabbergasted at the division in my tastes of songs of what I was expecting and the actual. I guess it's good I did this, but I can't really wrap my head around it... wow.

As always, throw your two cents in, I'd like to hear someone else's breakdown of these albums, or their view on the difference between the stoner camps. I may try to expand on that thought, making it into a full-blown rant.

No comments: