Fire Note Says: Metal master mind’s West End Motel takes a direction that’s surprising and appreciated.
Album Review: First before beginning I feel a disclaimer needs to be put in place – A lot of people know that Brent Hinds is one of the ax slingers behind psych, sludge powerhouses Mastodon. This side project, West End Motel, along with this record, Only Time Will Tell, is not at all a continuation of those sounds. While tone and influence can become recognizable throughout the album, this is an album made by people who love music, for people who love music. You have to approach this with an open mind and I feel that you’ll be easily surprised and enjoy what you hear. Like I said before, West End Motel is a side project put together by Mastodon’s Brent Hinds and friends. It could be classified as a boozy, tropical, gypsy doom-wop pilgrimage, not a pilgrimage to find identity or direction, but one of expansion and incorporation. It‘s the type of music that has an eclectic direction in the vain of a Tom Waits or Nick Cave. As schizophrenic as this record could be labeled, I still feel that Hinds’ tonal technique and skillful playing are glue enough to keep this musical Frankenstein fun, fresh, and focused.
Tumbling out the gate is opening track “Burn It Down” which possesses a rhythm that could be mistaken for a Young American era David Bowie. It has a sun soaked tropical feel that held my attention from the start and hearing this you can only wonder what other directions the record could take. “El Myr” presents a bouncy organ accompanying a breezy chug, its shout out loud vocals celebrate El Myr and the song has a fun funky reggae theme that plays out nicely. Their is something about “If I Only Had Tomorrow (Second Chances)” that takes me back to my high school days. Yes, Hinds always has an interesting spacey tone to his playing, but for some reason I keep drawing conclusions to some of the mellow, lax, and sometimes effortless songs of Incubus’ Morning View . “Bite” provides a simple riff that may sound like it could have been written by Tom Petty or Jon Bon Jovi on acid while drums bring in a nice rolling thunder thump that keeps things on track nicely. Finalizing the track we’re greeted with a nice guitar solo, that maybe considered a true Mastodon wailer. “Forgiveness” comes across as samba/salsa number, close your eyes and you may see an intense dance of passion, open your eyes and it maybe you who has a rose in their teeth. Final track “Valentine” might seem to crawl away on its knees in shame, while the lyrics seem to garbled to make out based on the songs tone I get the feeling that rejection is in the picture here.
Hinds said it him self, he assembled a band of losers, poets, and hobo-sexuals. This group is all based around his love for country-chicken-pickin‘-flying-’round-the-guitar-neck guitar players. Knowing a bit about the personality of one Brent Hinds one could surmise that this album may have been conceived with a bit of a tongue in cheek attitude. If that is so, it still showcases some fine musicianship and interesting angles. Maybe I’m giving this record to much credit but I stand by my feelings because it’s really nice to have this sludge, space rifting powerhouse start something up to recognize his roots. Please check in to this vaudevillian west end motel because I have a feeling that you may be glad that you did.
Key Tracks: “Burn It Down”, “If I Only Had Tomorrow(Second Chances)”, “Forgiveness”
Artists With Similar Fire: Nick Cave / Tom Waits / Friend Without A Face
West End Motel Website
West End Motel Facebook
Warner Bros. Records
-Reviewed by Christopher Tahy