With what passes for rock and roll nowadays, who could really blame those that say the genre is dead or dying? But if you scratch just a little bit deeper, you’ll find there is a whole new generation of artists well versed in the finer points of classic rock, penning brand new messages in fifty year old ink. Greta Van Fleet may have garnered the lion’s share of hedgerow bustling from the mainstream, but there was a bumper crop of retro-leaning acts in 2018 proving there will always be plenty of room for bands that want to wrap themselves in velvets and party like it’s 1974. It was tough to whittle the whole year down to ten releases, and even tougher to rank them. But after countless hours of analysis, these are the best things I heard this year; if you don’t think they make ‘em like they used to, you need to check this shit out.
Ruben Romano has a rock and roll pedigree that can stand alongside the very best. As a founding member of both Fu ManchuandNebula (let that sink in for a second, why don’tcha?), Romano helped draw up the plans and build the framework that stoner rock hangs on to this very day. He’s spent the last decade-plus as frontman and guiding force for L.A. based psych-rockers The Freeks, piloting their trips-‘n’-riffs-fueled funny car further and further into the cosmic realm; their newest dispatch Crazy World (released via the ever-reliable Heavy Psych Sounds) is the sound of the band-in-residency at the Garage at the Edge of the Universe, a jubilantly strident “Fuck You” in the face of oblivion.
Those who get their jollies on the classic rock path will find plenty to tickle their fancies in the grooves of Killing Tongue, the sophomore effort from Berlin power trio Wedge. The follow-up to their eponymous 2014 debut, Killing Tongue is a satisfyingly sticky chunk of retro-hesher goodness, steeped in a half-century’s worth of sonic bongwater. It’s loaded up on all the stoner essentials: churn-n’-burn riffing, swirly, trippy keys, a rhythm section that swings and cracks your sternum, and plenty of sharp, shiny hooks, all balled up and deep-fried in a batter of sweaty swagger and blacklight boogie. Guitarist/vocalist Kiryk Drewinski, bassist/keyboardist David Götz, and drummer Holger Grosser have crafted a record that proudly and unabashedly wears its influences on its sleeve, a monument carved from the precious classic rock mined in the late 60’s and early 70’s that feels exciting and fresh yet instantly familiar.
Since their founding in late 1999, the Lords of Altamont have been preaching the gospel of high RPMs and low morals, the Good News about being bad. Well-versed in the rituals, scriptures and sacraments of the sages and prophets who preceded them, the LA-based congregation has unleashed another electrifying testimonial to the healing powers of rock and roll on their sixth album, The Wild Sounds of Lords of Altamont. It’s a cranked-up, psychedelic biker/garage joyride from Detroit to Berdoo, all virile riffs and swirly Farfisa; you can hear the leather and sunglasses, smell the exhaust fumes and truckstop incense. Vocalist/organist/head shaman Jake Cavaliere, guitarist Daniele Sindaco, bassist Rob Zimmerman, and drummer Steven Van Der Werff are a finely tuned machine, expertly spitting out blasts of santification that baptize you with a shot of whiskey and a punch in the mouth.