Punctuated Equilibrium

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With more bands and releases under his belt than can be counted, Wino's full solo debut feels less like a striking new step forward and more a consolidation of where he's been, a happy worship of the kind of sound, songwriting, and sheer power served up with a smile that's also a bit of a leer. After all, who would expect otherwise? Leading a power trio lineup with unsurprisingly solid production by J. Robbins, Wino aims to combine vocal and guitar swagger with psychosis in equal measure on Punctuated Equilibrium -- the mark of someone who knows that one of the best things to do with electric guitars is to figure out how to stun the listener and make them queasy at the same time. So if nothing on the album ultimately surprises, it's still a great demonstration of ability, with moments like the acid rock/proto metal rumble of "Wild Blue Yonder" and the bar blues strut of "Smilin Road" happily kicking ass and taking names. Even more satisfying are the more boundary pushing numbers -- Jean-Paul Gaster's drumming on the title track might actually be the best tribute to Bill Ward's work in a long time, while the slow grind of "Eyes of the Flesh" is monstrously compelling. Perhaps the best track, though, is the penultimate one, with "Gods, Frauds, Neo-Cons and Demagogues" being the perfect kissoff to the George W. Bush years, a brutal, mocking collage of ranting samples laid over the kind of headnodding groove last best heard on Monster Magnet's stellar Tab...25. Then again, Wino had already known the power of that approach even before then -- it almost feels like a well-deserved reclamation.

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