Datura4

West Coast Highway Cosmic

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West Coast Highway Cosmic Review

by Thom Jurek

With 2019's Blessed Is the Boogie, Western Australia's Datura4 brought blues-rock keyboardist Bob Patient (Dave Hole, DM3) to replace departing guitarist Greg Hitchcock. Despite its title, that record, while not remotely subdued, was still less raucous than its two predecessors as the band integrated Patient into their sound. West Coast Highway Cosmic is titled for the 242-kilometer stretch of two-lane blacktop that runs along the southwest coast of Western Australia and bridges the recording studios Datura4 has utilized since recording Demon Blues back in 2015. In these ten new songs, guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Dom Mariani has thoroughly adapted to the wealth of dynamic, textural, and sonic possibilities Patient adds to his band's sound. That now-missing second guitar isn't remotely missed.

The opening title track commences with a near-Gothic church organ and high-droning analog synth before Mariani adds his slide guitar just before the rhythm section -- bassist Stu Loasby and drummer Warren Hall -- enters with a thud. As the track kicks into gear, its riff recalls the Radio Birdman of Living Eyes (though as a singer, Mariani is no Rob Younger). The organ sound comes right out of Deep Purple's "Hush" at a frenetic pace. Single "Mother Medusa" is a 4/4 psych boogie that marries vintage Status Quo to Blue Cheer with better production. Mariani dubs his guitar, adding a twinned lead to the band's crunchy plodding burn. "You're the Only One," is a spooky, trippy blues introduced by slide guitars both acoustic and electric accompanied by a heavily reverbed kick drum. The layered echo on Mariani's voice creates its own drone as guest harmonicist Howie Smallman wails high and lonesome in the foreground (his soulful playing comes right out of the Junior Wells fakebook). "You Be the Fool" borrows Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker" riff, inverts it and sets up a slow, stoned, distorted choogle, while "Get Out," with its pumping upright piano, is smash- and-grab guttersnipe rock that would be right at home on the Stooges' Raw Power. The set's biggest surprise is its final cut, "Evil People, Pt. 1." Though under six minutes it feels like a jam track with serpentine organ, throbbing bass, and martial tom-toms overlaid with distorted guitars in a three-chord vamp that creates a hypnotic, head-wagging pulse as Mariani sings with malevolence at the heart of the mix. His six-string duels with Patient's Hammond B-3 for dominance as the music melts together in a punishing swirl that brings West Coast Highway Cosmic to an overloaded boil of blasted psych blues. This aptly titled set is perfect for driving fast on long, lonely stretches of highway with the windows down and the wide-open night for company.

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