I don’t like The Weed. Makes me feel like I’m the only thing to look at for a million judging eyes. And that’s good, I suppose, because I love stoner rock and if pot actually made me feel the way stoner rock would have me believe it should, I’d be a sad single man permanently sunk into a threadbare olive green couch, wearing nothing but a set of tighty-used-to-be-whities and several weeks of stank, slowly decomposing beneath a cellophane mountain of empty cheetos bags.
But, hey, we’re talking about music called stoner rock, so-called for the Sativa-badge-wearing Warriors of the Spliff and Riff that make it. So if you’re making stoner rock, you’d better be crafting songs that make the listener’s eyes go glassy even if they never touch the stuff.
Wo Fat do that.
It’s hard to know where to place The Conjuring, the Dallas trio’s fifth full length, along the stoner spectrum because it’s metal heavy, but it rolls like rock. High on Fire heft with a Kyuss kiss. That juxtaposition defines this record, nicely, actually.
There’s that blurred but persistent line in the stoner world between the fuzzed up bluesy rock song approach and the stretched out psychedelic jam style and on The Conjuring, Wo Fat has fun playing the two against, around and through each other. Sometimes that strategy gives us songs that feel (or literally are) tacked on (Thanks for “Cherry Red”, Earthless, but please don’t feel bad when I hit the back-skip in its first few seconds in favor of another “Sonic Prayer”). But Wo Fat does a nice job integrating the two in service of the song and then the album.
The feeling here is that Wo Fat knows their strengths and set about making songs that play to them, with the idea that this is how they’d get a record that does. Seems they started with that killer thick sound, from which they molded robust riffs that surge and swell and sometimes run, always keeping the rails well-greased and the listener riding, gliding along. In fine stoner style, the rhythm rarely breaks its groove. In lesser bands, this is where the scenery would take on a blur and haze and eyelids begin to outweigh the riffs, but Wo Fat bring things back round with well-placed hooks. And these set the framework for the jam.
It all works well enough on each of the five tracks and some folks will get all chiefy with the blues-rockin vibes of “Read the Omens” and “Beggar’s Bargain”, complete with cowbell and Clutch references, but Wo Fat excels when they focus on integration. On “Dreamwalker”, The Conjuring’s excellent 17 minute closer, six minutes of fuzzed out riff-and-jam draw the listener in with warm smoky tendrils, beckoning with the seductive power of a cartoon pie on a window sill. Then two simple cycles of verse-prechorus-chorus set the hooks deep for nine minutes of kaleidoscopic jams that set the listener atop a smoky stallion galloping slo-mo through the orange-gradient desert dusk. It’s a nice trip.
The Conjuring doesn’t so much refute stoner’s reputation for being stale as it does ignore it, Wo Fat doing what they do with a blithe indifference to all but their hazy muse. This is a record that should play well to anyone who shares the band’s love of the whole stoner pie, offering an aural channel to cheebah and cheetos, minus the bugged out bullshit of a date with Mary Jane.