Dead Meadow – Warble Womb (Xemu/The End Records)

US psych/stoner rock trio make stunning return

Released Oct 7th, 2013 via Xemu Records / By Richard Lewis
Dead Meadow – Warble Womb (Xemu/The End Records) Returning after an extended hiatus following various solo LPs/production jobs/guest appearances, Warble Womb sees DC stoner rock trio Dead Meadow definitively cement their reputation as one of America’s finest psych outfits.

With the genre currently undergoing a huge renaissance, the band’s burgeoning cult following has been extended beyond the ardent circle of psych fans via their namecheck in the best TV programme of the 2000s The Wire (‘Meadow lead singer Jason is the nephew of show creator David Simon).

The band’s first album of new material since 2008s Old Growth, the timely reissue of the band’s 2000 eponymous debut LP earlier in the year is prescient, as Warble Womb sees the membership now restored to its original configuration following the return of original sticksman Mark Laughlin to the fold.

Released via a hook-up between the Xemu label and venerable NYC set up The End, the album is an old-school double vinyl opus, comprising of 15 tracks sprawled across a languorous 75 minutes.

The group’s most eclectic offering to date, the set covers the largest amount of sonic terrain the band have ventured into encompassing space rock jams, folky acoustic missives, sludgy stoner grooves and an added emphasis on classic rock with glimpses of The Stones, Black Sabbath and Dylan/The Band.

Opening with the supine ‘Six to Let the Light Shine Thru’ (the title a possible reference to the disc being the band’s sixth LP) the track stretches out via a throaty lead guitar motif and unspooling bassline, expertly setting the scene for what is to follow.

‘1000 Dreams’ second powered by a superlatively scuzzy riff is imbued with the late sixties expansiveness of The Kinks, a possible reflection on the band logging studio time with the lead guitar-playing half of the Davies brothers Dave earlier this year.

The fabulously titled Lennon-esque character study ‘Mr. Chesty’, the first track to be pulled from the collection along wonderfully, as does following standout track ‘I’m Cured’, a waltz-time gem smeared in backwards guitar parts and Stones in Morocco style instrumentation courtesy of bassist Steve Kille’s sitar parts.

After one of two instrumental slivers ‘Yesterday’s Blowing Back’ boasts the clear influence of The Basement Tapes, a distant cousin of ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’, the acoustic driven track.

This, and the compact ‘One More Toll Taker’, an accordion augmented acoustic arpeggio that clocks in under three minutes showcases how far the band have broadened their musical palette alongside ‘Burn the Here and Now’, a mixture of mournful violin and liquid guitar riffs with Simon sounding remarkably similar to Jason Pierce.

‘All Torn Up’, gives the vocalist ample room to demonstrate his guitar chops via an extended axe solo as does the inspired almost Chet Atkins-esque break on the vintage psychedelic pop jewel of ‘In the Thicket’, based around a stomping 13th Floor Elevators groove.

The final stretch kicks off with ‘Copper is Restless (‘til it turns to Gold)’, an extended guitar college pungent with the aroma of super-strength weed smoke followed by ‘This Song Is Over’, which despite its title nod towards Who’s Next is nearer to a different 1971 release, Sabbath’s Master of Reality.

The longest cut on the album, a slow, doomy trudge that almost breaks the ten minute barrier, the track wrings the optimum out of the trio’s XL proportioned riffs, a piece that will doubtless become even more vast live, as will fellow sonic leviathan ‘Rains in the Desert’.

‘September’ plays as the credits roll, a simple refracted rhythm guitar part that leads into a blues inflected solo, the band at their most relaxed, a restful conclusion to the set.

The kind of album that invites the listener to sit back and reflect on the hour and a quarter that has passed when the run-out groove approaches, Warble Womb’s maximalist grooves stand as Dead Meadow’s most eclectic, rewarding listen to date, a band who despite being 15 years into their career sound suspiciously like they might just be nearing their peak.