The scene is a bit surreal. The theater is empty. Vendors languishing in slow motion, taking down tarps and laying out t-shirts, preparing for the onslaught. I've got my photo pass and am sitting alone in a side hallway. Ushers ignore me.
It's the perfect time to write. I pull out my iphone and hit play. The music is already queued up. It should be. I've been listening to the album for days now. On repeat. With each listen, I dig a bit deeper. Hear a new effect. Pick up a new lyric. Fall deeper and deeper under the spell of Atlas Cage.
Let's get the comparison out of the way right off the bat. With his retro-afro, persistent dark glasses, and groove-laden take on 70's rock (with heaps of soul), Lenny Kravitz just has to come to mind. And it should. They both plow a vaguely similar vein of lost-in-time, yet thoroughly modern classic rock with a love of the wah and a bit of fuzz. But here's the thing. I never really liked, Lenny Kravitz. Yet I dig Atlas Cage.
What's the difference, you ask? Intent. While both of these cats probably have the identical set of major influences, Kravitz never went far enough for me. He was content to play it safe and try and score hits. He just wasn't heavy enough. Other than a few choice cuts, he really just bored me. I didn't hate Lenny, how could I? He's a good musician, could turn out a good tune, and was married to Lisa Bonet. All good. But he bored me. I didn't hate Lenny, I just nothing-ed him.
There's something meaner in this dude. Something definitely heavier. No less melodic, no less capable of cranking out a great tune. But its all darker. Pop-friendly without the pop gloss and sheen. It just feels more real to me. More authentic. More anguished.
After hearing the album for about the fifth time, I wrote Atlas this cryptic passage. "The love spawn of an orgy weekend; fathered by Kravitz and Hendrix, suckled at the teet of mother classic rock, while spoon fed a gob of blues and a puree of funk." He responded. "So you're digging it, huh?"
Yeah, Atlas, I'm digging it.
"Art and Commerce" is a journey though fuzz riffs and a throbbing rhythm that just comes on like sex. It's a heavy bass that propels this thing. Not a hide-it-in-the-back bass, but a deep and dark and dangerous bass. And that works perfectly when the scythe of guitar cuts in with mutated fuzz and angry chords. Up front, Atlas will probably admit that, like Hendrix, he's not the greatest singer in the world. And that's just fine. His vocals work dead-on for his throbbing rock. He sings, vocalizes, sing-talks, shouts, and almost scats when the mood hits him. And it's all just perfect for what he's getting at.
"Don't Want the World" is a blitz of loosely-strung guitar chords, aching blues notes, and bending hallucinogenic solos. Man, this song just exudes feeling. Isolation, desperation, loneliness. The guitar is strummed with passion and purpose, as if each slap against those strings is a catharsis. Atlas sings with a heavy heart, like a funeral pall hanging over his head, as he lets out a moan of love lost. "I don't want the world, I want you," the chorus cries out in deepened and darkened heaviness. That psych lead guitar scorches through the acoustic strumming like a heart crying in pain. And all of this is wrapped up in a melody that begs for attention.
"Falling Sky" ups the old-school psych vibe with effect-laden guitar and a very Hendrixian vocal. His voice strains and reaches, but not trying to find notes. It searches to find feeling. It reaches for emotion. Yeah, I can get behind that. That's one of the things Pope and I talked about when we first started the Ripple. Make us happy or make us cry, it doesn't matter. Just make us feel something. Make us feel what you feel. Atlas does that here. The song is really more of a shell than a fully-fleshed composition, but that shell is a vehicle for the ache in his voice. It's like a soul purging, set to music. Then "Find a Way" storms out riding the back of monster named bass guitar and a stormfront called wah-guitar. This is the most Kravitz-sounding cut I hear on the album, but like I said, I'm digging this one. The bass and drums are deep and throbbing, pure funk, and my ass feels it while that guitar transport me to pure rock bliss. The chorus slays, dropping in to a chanted "Got to find a way to get away" while the tune turns into pure 70's metal. I'm fist pumping for reasons I don't know why. I'm yelling at people I don't even know. People are staring at me like I'm a drooling madman, and I don't care. Maybe I am.
"I'll be Your Stone" is an assault of fuzz, Kravitzian riffs and anger. It's a huge song with a bottom end that could be felt on the Richter scale in California. But it's not content to hang there. Massive funk bass bleeds through the scratching guitar and Atlas seduces just about every woman on the planet as the heaviness rages back. "Indigo-go Girl" comes on like a transformed funk "You Really Got Me' by The Kinks, but funky in ways Ray Davies never dreamed about. "So Far from Home" retreats to a thick, street-wise funk rap that'd make the Fun Lovin' Criminals proud.
It's a "never-stop-listening to" kinda album. Now all I gotta do is talk Atlas into putting it out on vinyl. I'll be first in line to buy a copy.
Yeah, Atlas, I'm digging it.
Strings of Atlas - Dont Want The World Official... by atlascage