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Rex Brown – Smoke On This

Rex Brown
Smoke On This
by Harry Green at 03 September 2017, 7:27 PM

I recently watched the 90’s action movie Stone Cold, concerning an FBI sting to take out a biker gang dealing narcotics – and “Smoke on This”, the 2017 debut studio album by REX BROWN, the PANTERA bassist’s solo project, would be the perfect soundtrack. Of course, I didn’t watch Stone Cold straight. I watched it with the Rifftrax commentary in order to make it entertaining. As much fun as there might be in viewing something ironically there comes a point where the tropes get tiresome and it’s not fun anymore. I would have enjoyed the musical equivalent of Rifftrax to go with this album in order to mitigate that issue.

Maybe it’s asking a leper to comment on textiles, but having had my ears worn down by a decent amount of sludge I had trouble being struck by any of the ostensibly heavy guitar work here. It’s the tempo, I think, the kind of plodding moderato with Southern melody popularized and indeed overused by the one and only NICKELBACK. The whole effort is occasionally buried in effects to make it sound kinda like ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA on some level. “Fault Line” is probably the best example, a less sludgy and grungy outing and somewhat evocative of 70’s psychedelic rock.

Other than that the album is short on creativity or capability. Opener “Lone Rider” is an impressively lazy song, consisting entirely of one riff that changes very slightly; the same is true of “Train Song”, which has perhaps the best riff on the album, but also essentially the only riff in the song.  “So Into You” actually features a riff that’s a finger-bend exercise I remember doing when I was learning guitar, and it drones on for the last minute and a half of the song without alteration. The blending of heavy effects and sludge happens most strikingly in “Best of Me”, a decent song ruined by a blunt chorus. In stark contrast with the rest of the album, “Grace” is a chill, groovy number reminiscent of “Someday” by SUGAR RAY, and easily the best song here.

This is a monotonous release whose basic themes have largely been done to death and done much better. An entire album consisting of the style shown in “Grace” and “Fault Line” could have been interesting, but the rest of the material here is nothing you can’t get a million other places. Other than that, the aforementioned NICKELBACK comparison stands. Brown has remarked that he listens to “everything from Sinatra to Slayer”, and I look forward to the day he releases the album showcasing those influences.

Songwriting: 2
Originality: 2
Production: 5
Memorability: 1

1 Star Rating

1. Lone Rider
2. Crossing Lines
3. Buried Alive
4. Train Song
5. Get Yourself Alright
6. Fault Line
7. What Comes Around
8. Grace
9. So Into You
10. Best of Me
11. One of These Days
Rex Brown: Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Bass
Lance Harvill: Lead Guitar
Christopher Williams: Drums 
Record Label: Steamhammer SPV


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