Welcome to Sky Valley, by Kyuss
Suggested by Tom Ross
Kyuss were a Californian rock band that ran for eight years between 1987 and 1995. Originally, they went by the name Katzenjammer, which is German slang for “hangover” that literally translates as “the moaning of a cat.” They then took on the moniker Sons of Kyuss, before settling on Kyuss in 1991.
The name Sons of Kyuss was cribbed from a rare creature in Dungeons and Dragons. According to the 1981 Fiend Folio, a book that catalogues a number of the wild and wonderful creatures and enemies one encounter in a roleplaying session, the Sons of Kyuss were animated putrid corpses with skulls full of fat green worms that oozed out of every orifice. Created by the evil high priest Kyuss, they have an armour class of ten and do one to eight damage per attack. They sound pretty spicy.
Reading on how the band came by their name succeeded in buoying me. I like a game, and have many a fond memory of roleplaying session in school, university and beyond. Perhaps Kyuss would be proud nerds, waving their geek flag high, their music reflecting this facet of their personality with wit and warmth. I identify with that particular subculture very strongly, and hopefully I’d see myself in the songs and could rock along with a full heart.
It soon becomes abundantly clear that this won’t be the case.
Gardenia kicks off this festival of distortion with what will be the blueprint for the rest of the album: fuzzy overly-treated stringed instruments and echoing flapdaddle drums. The sound is furry, hursuit, and in listening it sheds stout man-hairs into my aural drain. The singer, who’s woefully low in the mix, attempts a decent snarl but sounds almost apologetic in his delivery. And while I was hoping for playful lyrics with a dose of wit, it’s all very automotive and manly and Clarkson and makin’ sweet love to an exhaust pipe.
The second track, Asteroid, is better, because it’s an instrumental and thus unencumbered by the spaff-waffle dirge of the previous song. Despite me distaste for instrumentals, and for Rock instrumentals in general (they’re so plodding and routine!), I’d call this my standout track. At times it channels Captain Beefheart’s Electricity, and at others it’s one double-blind study short of Experimental, but it’s a fairly robust perennial squatting in a scorched garden of weeds.
As for the rest? Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop starts with promise, but descends into intensely irritating stuttering nonsense at the end. Space Cadet is a wonky amalgam of disparate sounds that, at seven minutes and two seconds, is about seven minutes too long. N.O. sounds like a song written by any other generic rock band, and the only positive thing to say about Conan Troutman is that I chuckled at the name. The final proper track, Whitewater, does offer a decent finish, but by then it’s too little too late. Then we have the frankly atrocious hidden track Lick Do, a tacky track on oral pleasures that don’t involve eating or speaking.
Welcome to Sky Valley gets a torrid 4/10. While I enjoy rock, I prefer a little less fuzz and a lot more drive, but my biggest disappointment was that the band name wrote a cheque that the music didn’t cash.