Maybe I am just a suspicious dude, as John Lennon sang, but I cannot help thinking sometimes that some rockers out there have not been living entirely spotless, exemplary lives. I know, I know but just hear me out, okay? I think that some of these so-called stoner rock bands have begun to hide subtle drug references within their music. Now I know that this revelation may just blow apart the whole world of rock, but you’re all adults and so I would like you to judge for yourselves. With that in mind I will paste the lyrics to a natty little record I picked up earlier this year, Sleep The Clarity.
From the temple stone
Smokes the lambsbread
Through dream, sleep and in waking.
Toward the weed fields
To That which holds the worlds
Walks the Sinsemillian.
Remains stoned constantly
The dealer breaks the eclipse.
All are stoned thereafter.
Stoned chariot ascending
Smokes the true believer.
The dealer is my refuge.
Heavy dry weight
Hasheeshian smoked relief.
Iomnic life complete.
So, is it just me, or do you think Sleep are actively extolling the non-medical usage of mary-jhu-awnaa? Much more of this and I’ll have to dust off my old copy of Dopesmoker and see if I can find any subliminal pro-weed messages in there too.
I was very excited to see The Clarity on the wall in my beloved probe Records in Liverpool and bought it despite the guys there warning me about the price*. After all this was a new track from a group I love unreservedly and who had not released anything ‘new’ since 2003 and that, Dopesmoker, was a full release of something they had completed way back in 1993. It is almost as though something was slowing them down, or chilling them out so they could only move at a truly glacial speed; wish I could work out what that was**.
The Clarity is a one song 12″, single-sided and etched on the reverse with a rather nifty image of, what I can only assume is, a hashtronaut drifting around a lunar landscape, geodesic domes and a lunar rover type vehicle in the background. The lettering on the PVC cover is glow-in-the-dark, just to space me out even further – except I can’t get it to work, maybe I’m expecting results too quickly and I need to slow down to the band’s speed.
So far, so cosmic but what about the tuneage here? ‘The Clarity’ is, by Sleep’s admittedly leisurely standards, a bit of a flash. Within 30 seconds we’re launched into the main riff and the vocal – Dopesmoker took about a week to get to that point, 12″ singles clearly agree with Sleep. ‘The Clarity’ is a perfect slice of doomy stoner metal, the guitar tone that Matt Pike conjures up just gives me goosebumps.
The playing of bassist Al Cisneros and the drumming of, comparatively, new boy Jason Roeder (ex-Neurosis) are wonderfully, powerfully primitive. Add in some great dynamics (there’s a thrilling ‘drop out’ bit), plus stir in Pike’s vocals which sound so disembodied and stoned immaculate that they have clearly been ‘phoned in from the Astral Plane, together with a guitar solo that caused me to break out my air guitar whilst driving to the station the other day*^ and the whole concoction could have been created in a lab specifically to flip all my switches.
Also Sleep score BIG 1537 bonus points for coining the word ‘Iomnic’, which is defined by the Oxford Online Dictionary as:
Plus they also get additional 1537 bonus points for mentioning backpatches twice, surely the most important part of any denim jacket/vest? and thus the crucial part of any gentleman’s outfit.
So there we have it, a great 9-minute slice of stoner brilliance. It won’t convert anyone to the stoner rock cause, but for those of us who are already there it’s balm for our souls. But having now cracked the subliminal drug references on The Clarity, your intrepid reporter is off to investigate something called ‘reggae’ because I heard that if you play Peter Tosh Legalize It backwards there’s a reference to some sort of drugs; will I ever be able to rest?
*Southern Lord releases always cost so much, but they are always quality objects too. The collector in me will also say that they tend to rise in price substantially down the years.
**in fact the single was, I now know, originally released as part of Adult Swim’s singles club in 2014. Ah well, only 3 years behind.
*^not recommended, it makes steering really difficult, especially if headbanging too; who knew?!