California X – Nights In The Dark
California X’s self-titled debut was the best Dinosaur Jr. album recorded by a band that wasn’t Dinosaur Jr., who were incidentally also making great Dinosaur Jr. albums at the time. It’s a great basis for a one-off album, but you can’t do that twice; Yuck tried it, and look where it got them. On their second album, then, California X try that whole “growth” thing, with middling results. They’ve added a second guitarist and seem to have developed a love for doom metal, or maybe just reappropriated Black Sabbath. The heaviness of the guitar work here is appreciated but it’s also oppressive, more suffocating than joyous. When it works, it works well, as on the two-part “Blackrazor” epic, where plodding doom rock bleeds into a kick-ass up-BPM track full of tossed-off Iron Maiden guitar melodies. When it doesn’t, like on “Hadley, MA” or the attempt at capturing magic twice that is “Summer Wall”, it meanders badly. Coupled with the fact that the production over-emphasizes the low end at the expense of clarity and this is a sophomore album that takes the band in a slightly new direction, but doesn’t really do them any favours.