Riding Easy Records
Rock and roll always aimed for loud, but it wasn’t until 1969 that any band REALLY cranked the volume. Blue Cheer became the most famous band you never heard of. They boasted over three kilowatts of audio authority, and guitarist Randy Holden may have created the “Doom Rock” movement with its plodding bass, soaring and scattered lead guitar, and he aimed to make your ears bleed. This particular album sold poorly and went out of print for decades. It became so obscure I never found a copy in a used record shop, and I looked hard. But through the magic of the internet, Population II returns in all its full-throated, bleeding eardrum glory.
Holden gives us just six tracks here, but they take us along for over a half hour of material. You got a few ten minutes workouts here, and a few shorter two minute pieces. The track lengths were a precursor of concept rock where an album was an entire opus unto itself, and no one aimed at the 3:05 hit track. Lyrics lie scattered about, Holden dismisses love poetry for downer tortured guitar chords. “Guitar Song” opens with a solid doom and gloom track and spares no quarter. “Fruity Iceberg” feels like the center piece of the project, here Holden is singing something but it’s not registering with me, nor do I want it to. It’s anger, writ in chords.
Track by track I’m impressed with the guitar work and the arrangements. While lyrics die under the wall of sound, and Holden even revert to the old trick of bouncing a guitar line between left and right. We exit on the ten minute workout “Keeper of My Flame.” Here Holden’s voice rings clear but the music overwhelms it, making the lyrics no more important than a comment from a guy in the third row. These songs originated in an ancient world but sound as fresh today as a metalized daisy. You’re not here to read press releases, but this one offers the best lines I’ve ever read in the paperwork: “Leaden sludge, Lumbering doom.” Damn square.