John Garcia is a name that few people outside the fandom of stoner rock will have heard of; inside it, however, the man is a legend. Erstwhile frontman for Kyuss—one of the genre’s progenitors and the band co-founded by Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme—and the owner of a soaring tenor voice that’s been put to use on no fewer than 24 records since Kyuss’ demise in the mid-nineties, Garcia has more than earned his solo stripes. This, his self-titled debut, arrives less than a year after the release of Peace, by Vista Chino (essentially a reformed Kyuss, minus Josh Homme) and features—among others—former bandmate Nick Oliveri, as well as Robby Krieger from that little-known sixties act, The Doors.
But is it any good? Well, of course it is—it’s John Garcia ffs! The guy could sing your weekly shopping list over the Peppa Pig theme tune and it’d still sound better than the majority of the dross that asserts itself as rock music these days. Thankfully, he puts a bit more consideration into things than that though, and what we have here is an eleven-song set of solid, wholly enjoyable stoner/desert/call-it-what-you-will-rock, which, while it doesn’t stretch the boundaries of the genre too wide, or get the adrenal glands going in the same way as, say, Unida’s superb ‘Coping With the Urban Coyote’, does groove with an irresistible candour and an undeniable touch of class.
Solo records are often conceived as a means of exploring musical ideas deemed too esoteric for the creator’s day job, but Garcia seems intent on keeping things fairly straightforward here. Opener ‘My Mind’ is about as personal as he gets, offering up a cantankerous plea to the voices inside his head to “leave me alone” atop a heel-stomping, riff-driven track. This is not a self-indulgent affair by any means, however. Lyrically, many of these songs plough a similar furrow, lamenting the pain of estrangement, infidelity and betrayal, with no small amount of empathy for those on the receiving end of life’s little tragedies. Closing track, ‘Her Bullets Energy’, which features the aforementioned Mr Krieger on guitar, is perhaps the best example of this: an ethereal, acoustic number over which Garcia croons the lines “He ought to be ashamed of his life…” The song’s lyrics are replicated from the earlier track, ‘His Bullets Energy’, although they’re all the more effective on the stripped-back ‘female’ version.
For the most part, though, the album’s appeal lies in its masculine qualities. Highlights include ‘Rolling Stoned’—the track’s cheesy title notwithstanding—with its strutting riff and Garcia’s reverb-soaked growl; ‘The Blvd’, meanwhile, offers an initial change of pace, before eventually exploding into a chorus of real calibre. ‘5000 Miles’ is inarguably the album’s centrepiece: an absolute barnstormer on which the big man unleashes the true potential of those legendary vocal chords. Indeed, the only downer is its relative brevity. ‘Confusion’ follows, with a more restrained (read: boring) tempo, but Garcia ramps up the energy levels again toward the tail end of the album, before ‘Her Bullets Energy’ rounds things off in sumptuous style.