November 2, 2006

Hearts, Stars, and Rainbow Warriors

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The second you slide Meek Warrior into the glowing aftermarket CD player of your rusted out, sticker-spattered SUV, its immediate energy will startle the keys right out of your hands. The cover shows the arm a cosmic deity reaching out from inside a supernova, fingers twined around a flaming sword, and the music, while never actually reaching cosmic peaks (see the Boredoms’ Super Æ for that), captures devotional joy and religio-philosophical exploration pretty well.
Take “Blessing Force,” the album’s first and best track. It begins on the downbeat of a rollicking drum solo straight out of early twenties big band swing, like that Chips Ahoy commercial with cookies dancing on tidal gushes of milk. Not long after, a cacophonous yammering of voices leaps in and swirl from chaos into an organized chant of “the blessing force, wooao, woa oah oah oh.” It’s like watching the collapse of the tower of Babel, in reverse, back from divided squabbling to a single language.
This album aims beyond divisions, back to a campfire Kumbaya of all the world’s spiritualists. The words are spare but repeated over and over, like mantra. “Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond,” they sing on one track, then later “space is love.” No particular religious viewpoint shines through this gleeful psychedelic/noisy bliss, just some kind of open space worship, and I like that but wish that the overall view was more coherent or organized. What, exactly, are they trying to get across?
I’m not sure.
The lyrics are accessible but vague. If you just drift off in the sound, which I’m inclined to do, you’ll find that the extremely short album has passed on without your notice. The open spiritual approach (never pinning down Shiva, Buddha, Allah or anyone else as the object of devotion) allows them sweeping freedom of expression, but keeps their ideas from getting too far. There’s a reason organized religions are around — they allow for a common language with very specific, fine-tuned referents. Here, when the band expresses their philosophy, the ideas don’t always translate outside of their heads.
I like this album, a lot sometimes, but I’m not always moved by the mishmash of ideas. Spaceship vessel dolphins? It’s a little embarrassing, both lyrically and visually. Album art doesn’t mean so much anymore, but damn, I don’t know what possessed them to cover the CD with dolphin silhouettes. The images take the easy route, recycling imagery that’s already been trampled flat by dozens of b-list psychedelic acts. It’d be obnoxious to say that certain animals or ideas are passé, or to ignore the truth so often hidden in clichés, but there’s an original way to talk about dolphins that doesn’t involve seeing them as space shuttles.
In 2005, I bought the band’s self-titled debut on a whim, from a good feeling I got about the cover art. Sometimes, intuition and split-second decisions are the best way to select a new album. You’ll get a few bad apples, but the process is exhilarating, and this one paid off — Akron/Family overflowed with potential. Although distracted and unsuccessful at times, it aimed for greatness I could almost taste. Now, a year later, I feel like I’m still waiting for the grand cosmic payoff.