After a couple of records I’ve been a bit diffident about* let’s get back on board the Enthusiasm Express, calling all stations to Gush City. Despite being an upstanding citizen, pillar of society and generally abstemious sort of fella, when I discovered stoner rock after seeing Monster Magnet open for Metallica I found my brand – proper riffs just like grandma used to bake, enough psych leanings to peel back the metal formula, cool sci-fi inspiration and (mostly) a sense of humour. I was home.
When I found out that Nebula had been formed by a couple of refugees from one of my all-time fave bands, Fu Manchu I knew they’d be worth checking out but it took me a while before I stumbled across the little beauty that it the Nebula/Lowrider EP in the racks at HMV, unwanted and unloved by an uncaring world, it had been released in 1999. Resplendent in an Arik ‘Moonhawk’ Roper** sleeve, in turquoise vinyl and released on I Used To Fuck People Like You In Prison Records – it had to be bought. Wait! you want more reasons? okay how about it was a split record with Swedish stoners Lowrider? and the back of the EP had a picture of a scantily clad chick on it? I know I’m not 14 anymore, but come on! IT HAD TO BE BOUGHT.
The Nebula tracks were mostly produced by Jack Endino in Seattle (the band’s first two LPs were later released on Sub Pop), the exception being ‘Back to the Dawn’. Now whatever the reason Eddie Glass and Ruben Romano quit Fu Manchu, it really couldn’t have been major musical differences. Their side of the EP kicks off with the cool down-tuned slightly grungey ‘Anything From You’, it has a swirly aggressive feel about it. Fu Manchu had the air of a band who clearly enjoyed a good smoke before hitting the surf, or their boards, Nebula have the air of a band who got so baked in their van at the beach, they just stayed there getting baked-r reading Dr Strange comics. You can hear smoky paranoid tendrils wrapping themselves around your feet as you get drawn in, before you know it you’ve got 5 days worth of facial hair, a big collection of empty Doritos packets, a devil-may-care attitude towards personal hygiene, a pet cockroach named Yule and no regular income; but that’s fine, just pass it on over!
There’s a respite during ‘Full Throttle’, which is so well named there’s not a great deal else to write about it – curse them! It sounds like Motörhead covering Nirvana’s ‘Love Buzz’, actually and has made it onto my ‘Jog, Piggy!! Jog!!’ exercise playlist. This really rocks and just to jazz me even further there are some whoosh-whizzy space noises towards the end.
Best of all is the menacing, slow burn of ‘Back To The Dawn’, where Eddie Glass slurs and drawls his words to just the right side of brain-damaged. I love the way the tempo shifts throughout this track from slow and brooding, to slightly quicker and menacing, briefly hitting quickly moody and then back around the track again. ‘Back To The Dawn’ really is stoner rock in excelsis as far as I’m concerned, all bases covered; there’s even a hint of stoned horniness peeking through (‘I hate to see you go / But I love to watch you leave’), which is a rarity around these waters outside of Dave Wyndorf’s sweaty-palmed fantasias. Trust me, I wouldn’t lie to you, not about this, not this time, it’s far too important to me. You need this track in your life.
Last up is the energised ‘Fall of Icarus’ which could easily slot straight onto my beloved Fu Manchu’s In Search Of, although it is possibly a little wilder and meaner around the edges. Apart from providing Arik Roper with the cover art inspiration this isn’t much of a song, more of a great excuse to blast it all out and really let rip. The rhythm section of Mark Abshire and Ruben Romano earn their corn on this track, good style.
So after a stint in rehab, let’s flip the sucker over. This is the only Lowrider I own/have ever heard so I have no idea how representative of the band it is, but I like it. It’s not an original thought but Lowrider sound a lot like prime Kyuss did when they rocked out, what has always stopped me completely worshipping at the feet of Kyuss was all their sodding about with snippets and instrumentals between all the good stuff, on this evidence Lowrider just crack open a can of the good stuff for us from the off. ‘Lamenshma’ just has a guitar tone that is pure Josh Homme.
The magnificently titled ‘The Gnome, The Serpent, The Sun’, is next up and is an absolute winner, slower and heavier by far it’s possibly the most metal of the tracks on the whole Nebula/Lowrider EP and although I can only truly make out the odd disconnected word here and there, I can sing along to all the noises perfectly in my car. Lead guitarist Ola Hellquist lays down some seriously excellent flourishes on this one. ‘Shivaree’ is up next and we’re back on board the good ship drug psychosis, men making lots of noise in the vain hope of actually being able to feel something through the numbness; this track has a really excellent break down half way through and you have to brace yourself for the off as Lowrider build a suitable head of steam up again^; they do, of course.
Last of all Lowrider bring the curtain down with ‘Upon The Dune (Full Version)’ – yup, none of your wimpy half versions around here, thanks! It starts a little like the survivors of an air crash involving The Jimi Hendrix Experience (although not the main man, sadly), The Move and War would if they were forced to jam to keep their morale up, using the remnants of their instruments, patched up with bits of the fuselage. Then it speeds and speeds and speeds. The guitars sound too trebley, too jagged and painful – but in a really good way. A really excellent way of finishing this sucker off.
The Nebula/Lowrider EP was a far better record than I remembered it being, I’ve only picked the odd track off it for years now. If you’re serious about your stoner rock, you really should have this one tucked away. If you’re curious about the appeal, then again this would be a good one to have, although it really isn’t as polished as most. In fact you should just own this, period. These men have given their all to the cause, they don’t have a back up plan, or a career path, or pension plans, just greasy stoner rock memories and lungs as calloused as their fingers. Support them.
I hate to see you go
But I love to watch you leave
P.S – Lowrider tunes are not easy to locate but the Nebula tracks here, along with sundry other goodies can be found on their (curses) CD Dos EP’s.
*okay so calling a track on Crazy Moon ‘hatefully bad’ may push the definition of diffident.
**if I had another son to name, Moonhawk would be an odds-on favourite.
^more transport metaphors here, interesting psychologically. Hmmm …