Wednesday 20 July 2022

Carson - The Wilful Pursuit of Ignorance (2022)

Country: Switzerland
Style: Stoner Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 15 Apr 2022
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Official Website | YouTube

I'm not sure what I was expecting from this band, but I expected something worthy of note, given a strange location shift; Kieran Jones, the singer and guitarist, is from New Zealand and this band's origins are there, but he moved himself and the band to Switzerland. There's nothing Swiss in this sound that I can discern, but they combine their very American sounding stoner rock, played with a commercial level of fuzz, with a Ian Astbury passion for melodies. Dirty Dream Maker, the opening track and initial single, is relatively easily described as Queens of the Stone Age meeting the Cult.

Carson, as so many stoner rock bands tend to be, are a power trio, with Elina Willener on bass and Jan Kurmann on drums, and that power is on display on the opening couple of tracks. There's real energy to it, which is recognisable to fans of any antipodean music, but it's tampered down a little bit to make it more patient and commercial and it's fair to suggest that both openers had plenty of chances at reaching a mainstream audience. Everything they need is there except luck and that lady is notoriously hard to find, apparently even in Lucerne.

Siren is where they shift gear, because it's almost two minutes longer than anything else here and so it has plenty of time to breathe. It starts mellow but perky and returns to that at points, with a not all the way back to the Cult's primary influence, the Doors. It ramps up, of course, with energy to spare, even when it finds a patient heavy and dirty riff halfway through, but that's not where a kind of inevitable Black Sabbath influence creeps in, at least not really. That shows up later, when they drop down to a trippy liquid instrumental section reminiscent of Planet Caravan.

So yeah, there are surprises here. They're technically a Swiss band nowadays but they don't sound remotely Swiss. They're playing an American style of music but with a recognisably British flavour to it. And, while every stoner rock band on the planet owes a debt to Black Sabbath, theirs isn't at all the usual one for much of the album; the most overt Sabbath influence shows up on Outbound Tide, which is the last of eight tracks, even if there are undercurrents of You're So Vain in there as well. Yeah, Sabbath are there throughout, through osmosis, because this is nineties stoner rock a lot more than its seventies roots except on Siren.

In fact, there are other more modern sounds to be found here too. Gimmie is a punk song, edgier and fuzzier than its obvious modern pop punk comparisons but not as edgy as their predecessors. There's a control in play here that Carson don't want to give up. They're absolutely crafting songs here, rather than just jamming for the pleasure of the moment. Even the songs that find the most effective grooves, like No Joy with its excellent bouncy riffs, never feel like they would ever go off the rails into a drawn out instrumental section. It's just not who this band are.

At least, it's not who they are on record, though I have to confess that I'm judging that from this, a follow-up album to 2017's Drown the Witness. It wouldn't surprise me to find that they're a looser, heavier and faster band on stage. I'd love to see what some of these songs become when played by an urgent live band.

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