Putting gui­tarists firmly in con­trol

Los Angeles Times - - ARTS & BOOKS - By Ran­dall Roberts ran­dall.roberts @la­times.com

Com­put­ers and key­boards may be run­ning the city’s com­mer­cial pop mu­sic in­dus­try, but you still can’t toss a Tele­caster in this town with­out hit­ting a gui­tarist.

Be­low, a few new sixstring driven songs, one of which stars a cat named Blood, that sound great while rolling down Sun­set with the stereo blast­ing. (Bet­ter yet, take Foun­tain.)

Chelsea Wolfe “16 Psy­che” (Sar­gent House)

Singer, song­writer and mag­netic live per­former Wolfe runs dark and heavy on the first song from her forth­com­ing al­bum, “Hiss Spun” (Sept. 22). The artist — who was raised in Sacra­mento, re­lo­cated to Los An­ge­les in her 20s and now lives in the high desert — draws on Black Sab­bath’s down­tuned heavy metal chords with­out sound­ing the least bit sub­servient to the over­lords.

Wolfe has a fas­ci­nat­ing discog­ra­phy. Her min­i­mal record­ings from the early ’10s fea­tured crawl­ing, dis­torted gui­tars and echoed drama, and over the years she’s ex­plored syn­thetic tex­tures and or­ches­tral ar­range­ments with­out ditch­ing any of her men­ace as a vo­cal­ist.

Although it’s about the length and width of your av­er­age pop song, “16 Psy­che” weighs a ton, thick with loud gui­tars, drums that echo as if in­side a vast cav­ern and a mu­si­cal bridge that seems to bur­row into the Earth’s core and back.

Queens of the Stone Age “The Way You Used to Do” (Mata­dor)

For their new al­bum, the long-run­ning Cal­i­for­nia band didn’t hire a leg­endary rock pro­ducer like Robert “Mutt” Lange or Tony Vis­conti to add more hard­ened grit.

Rather, as is of­ten founder Josh Homme’s wont, they did the op­po­site, in this in­stance by hook­ing up with pop pro­ducer Mark Ron­son, who’s re­spon­si­ble for com­mer­cial hits by Amy Wine­house, Lady Gaga and Paul McCart­ney as well as his own col­lab­o­ra­tion with Bruno Mars, “Up­town Funk.”

Purist rock dudes might be in­clined to think that Homme’s riffs would squish posh Brit pro­ducer Ron­son like a bug, but on “The Way You Used to Do,” Ron­son puts up a good fight.

Fea­tur­ing a boo­gie rock gui­tar line that seems ripped from 1970s arena­busters Foghat and Black Oak Arkansas, on “The Way You Used to Do” the band man­ages to in­ject new life into the so-called coun­try funk move­ment of decades past.

It’s an ad­mirable, gutsy turn into new ter­rain. Plus, like Foghat’s “Slow Ride” and Black Oak Arkansas’ “Hot & Nasty,” Queens’ new groover is, ac­cord­ing to Homme, about sex. But it’s a com­pli­cated sit­u­a­tion. In ad­di­tion to be­ing a rock star, Homme and his wife, Brody Dalle (for­mer leader of the Dis­tillers), are the par­ents of three young chil­dren.

When Homme de­liv­ers lines about meet­ing her he seems not to be singing about a groupie or a onenight stand but his fu­ture life part­ner. “Is love men­tal dis­ease or lucky fever dream? / Fine with either,” Homme won­ders, be­fore giv­ing a shout-out to his kids: “Gave birth to mon­sters who will ter­ror­ize nor­malcy / Yeah, they’ll ter­ror­ize.”

Shan­non Lay “All This Life Go­ing Down” (Do Not Dis­turb)

The new video for the erst­while Feels’ singer and gui­tarist sees her strum­ming her Fender while perched atop a black cat named Blood. The cat’s half asleep and likely purring. The mu­si­cian is of­fer­ing a spi­ral­ing gui­tar melody.

The song it­self, like the cat, doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry, nor does Lay seem anx­ious. Rather, she’s sit­ting and singing about rest­ing and find­ing com­fort within fears, no big deal, liv­ing in the mo­ment and rev­el­ing in “all this life go­ing down.”

Thomas Rab­sch

JOSH HOMME of Queens of the Stone Age sings about his fam­ily.

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