Giant Sand

Ah, pot rock and its attendant, spacy pleasures. Chore of Enchantment has been out for a while but it can still probably be referred to as Giant Sand's new record, since the last official release by this group was almost six years ago. Pot rock takes its time. Anyway Giant Sand is mainly songwriter/guitarist/singer Howe Gelb. Bass player Joe Burns, drummer John Convertino, and a host of guest instrumentalists and vocalists acquit themselves nicely, but it is basically Gelb's show.

So how is the pot rock this time out? Well, it's kind of slow and dreamy with drawling vocals and quirky arrangements. But the songs actually are songs, with recognizable verse/chorus patterns and jarring, funny lyrics that prompt a peek or two at the enclosed lyric sheet. And then there's Gelb's voice, which is kind of like a very stoned Arlo Guthrie or a more pop-oriented Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth or a less self-pitying Ira Kaplan from Yo La Tengo. Gelb often just talks his way through his songs in that medicated drawl of his that suggests the wide-open vistas of Arizona, his home state. Not too dissimilar from those other Southwestern pot rockers, the Meat Puppets, Giant Sand always sounds dreamy and, well, psychedelic, for lack of a better term.

Let's put it this way: If Spacemen 3 had been raised in the American Southwest and smoked wacky weed rather than being from England and injecting narcotics, you might have a pretty good idea of what Giant Sand sounds like. Or if Neil Young had not had a family and just stayed in the desert nursing broken apocalyptic visions, Giant Sand might have been the result. You get the picture; the band sounds sort of spacy and slow. But Gelb has more than just echoplex vocals and tremolo-drenched guitars on his side. He writes gorgeous melodies with choruses and lyrics that stay in your head for days. Pot rock without the sluggish hungover feeling. Quite a feat, Mr. Gelb.

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Ross Johnson