Look, it’s our stoner rock Dad, back from another of his ‘adventures’ that always seem to involve driving big cars into an infinite horizon. Brant Bjork has been around forever, with his career stretching back to 1987, and on his thirteenth (!) solo album he’s showing no signs of flagging. This self-titled record is certainly mellower than some of his more recent output, and it feels like we’re hearing Bjork take a step back and ruminate on his musical influences and identity, a more reflexive approach perhaps than the stoned swagger of desert rock’s iconography.
Opener ‘Jungle in the Sound’ is a stripped-back sunbaked blues that sets the tone for the album well – the production is spacious and warm, the songwriting is excellent without being overstated and the playing is just sublime. ‘Mary (You’re Such a Lady)’ and ‘Jesus Was a Bluesman’ are classic rockers both with smooth, fuzzy lead playing and big hooks to match, but this isn’t a shameless aping of ‘70s dinosaurs. Bjork’s restrained style on this album gives a chance for you to feel every sound in complete clarity, and although the record isn’t complicated or particularly forward-thinking it does exactly what this kind of album should do; equally driving and soothing, it gives you space to think in amongst the melodies.
‘Cleaning Out the Ashtray’ and ‘Duke of Dynamite’ are more pensive numbers with bags of groove, the latter featuring a ripping, squealing solo alongside some heavier tubthumping, and we hear hints of remorse and regret in Bjork’s voice that give this album its unique, reflective vibe. ‘Stardust and Diamond Eyes’ is perhaps the most revealing cut of the record, with its swinging refrain “I fell into the crazy world of love with you/I never get enough of the way your eyes possess me” pulling the song into half-time from a previously upbeat syncopated funk-blues. It’s plain and maybe a little played-out, but effective and totally genuine.
Maybe Bjork’s nowhere near done as a musician yet, but he’s definitely taking a slower and lighter approach as he ages – closer ‘Been So Long’ kinda sums that up pretty well. I’d hesitate to call this Dad-rock, because that’s a derogatory term and Brant is the kind of Dad you’d definitely want to hang out with.
Brant Bjork is released 8th May via Heavy Psych Sounds and can be purchased here.
Words: David Burke