It’s no secret to those who know me that Tumbleweed is a pretty big deal for me. They are a band I’ve worshiped for the past 18 years of my life and courtesy of my brother I was given a copy of “Galactaphonic” on cassette tape for Christmas back in 1995. The music of Tumbleweed changed me and shaped a big part of my musical identity. In 1995 I had no perception of what “stoner rock” was and at that point I don’t even think that genre itself was a term that people used. Perhaps it was, fuck, I was only twelve years old at the time. All of that aside, one thing that I knew that I loved about Tumbleweed was how fucking heavy it all was.
With Tumbleweed, there were always riffs galore that were wonderfully pushed along by the swagger of the bands rhythm section giving the music an incredible amount of groove. With all of this heaviness you’d expect that most humans would apply angst and attack vocally but Tumbleweed were blessed with having Richie Lewis as their singer. The wonderful part about Richie’s voice is that he brought a melodic approach that mirrored the Beatles more than it did Black Flag or anything punk rock. There was a degree of intense escapism through his lyrics and whilst there was pain and heavy emotion flowing in and out of the songs they had a wonderful narrative with sprinklings of fantasy scattered all throughout the lyrics.
All of these dynamics helped set them apart and really made them pioneers of a sound that so many celebrity hungry young 21st Century Humans try to replicate. When Tumbleweed released their last official album “Mumbo Jumbo” in the year 2000 it felt like the band was coming to a bittersweet end. Since 1995 the band had gone through multiple line-up changes with only Richie and Lenny being the only real original members left by the time the band called it quits in 2003. The unfortunate part about this part of the bands history is that a lot of people overlooked the genius of their final album “Mumbo Jumbo” which I’m quite a big fan of.
As an album “Mumbo Jumbo” is the place Tumbleweed were always meant to evolve to with the riffing, the psychedelics and of course those amazing pop skills. It is criminally underrated and for all the sentimentality that I have (and lot of fans have) for the early material, the artistry of “Mumbo Jumbo” is undeniable.
For all the praise and love I have for “Mumbo Jumbo” I can’t deny just how important that first era of the band was in terms of establishing the sonic identity of Tumbleweed. When the band announced its return in 2010 I was way beyond excited. From 2003 to 2010 the world had seen the rise of terrible clichéd rock music in the form of Jet and Wolfmother with the “retro rock” sound being mined and replicated and sold to the highest bidder. It was an incredibly dark time for rock music, especially in Australia because for all of the fancy dressing up and worldwide success that these bands attracted they just didn’t bring any new ideas to the creative expression that is alternative rock n roll. It just all sounded so false and insincere with the pursuit of money over art feeling like the overall goal. That’s not to say great music wasn’t released from 2003 to 2010, but overall – and perhaps I’m speaking for myself in this situation – it felt like all of the pure souls of the 90’s alternative nation were no longer present in these young hip business conscious rock stars. It personally fucking disgusted me and on a shallow level the music just flat out fucking sucked.
Once Tumbleweed re-united in 2010 and after proving what a killer live band they still were the inevitable question loomed of whether we would see a brand new album or not. Like the band, I was looking for evolution not just an exercise in nostalgia so when Tumbleweed announced they were working on the first new album of original material in over a decade (almost 18 years considering it was the original line-up) I was both excited, nervous and incredibly willing to surrender to whatever they chose to communicate as a band circa 2013.
So I guess the all-important question is, what do I think of “Sounds From The Other Side” the first Tumbleweed album in 13 years and the first album with the original line-up in 18 years.
I’ve lived with this album since Monday evening when – through the joys of a pre-order – the album arrived in the post. I’ve studied this album inside and out and listened to it non-stop since I received it and there has been an epic amount of joy in hearing the band I love so dearly making music together once again.
Look, I’m not going to dissect this album scientifically for you because it doesn’t deserve that. What this album deserves is for you to buy it, put it on your stereo and to turn it up very loud and let the worries of the world pass you buy. I know that in 2013 every one is busy talking about how great bands like Violent Soho, Dune Rats, Bleeding Knees Club, DZ Deathrays, John Steel Singers, Cloud Control and Tame Impala are at making alternative rock n roll that is linked to all things stoner, psyche, pop and rock. I just don’t have time for those bands because they just don’t have it, all of those bands are like a collective weak handshake compared to Tumbleweed.
Believe me when I say that Tumbleweed still have it and then some. On “Sounds From The Other Side” Tumbleweed prove that their return is not an exercise in Nostalgia, this is about the evolution of the riff and the evolution of all things great about psyche drenched rock n roll. From start to finish this album is a journey that showcases a band whose maturity has lead them to make a sound that is familiar yet still about pushing the boundaries of their original dynamics. This album is about the amazing chemistry that the original line-up of Tumbleweed had and still has; this is unfinished business and a totally mature take on the already flawless sound created by the band between 1990 and 1995.
There is a new progressive spirit rolling in and out of the mountainous riffage with more focus on the psychedelic side of things with Richie’s brilliant melodies giving so much beautiful emotional direction to the behemoth guitar riff orchestras on display. On top of the riffage there is an amazing swagger from the rhythm section with that beautiful Jay Curley Bottom End giving an ugly yet soulful intensity to the sludge of the guitars.
For a very long time I thought that “Mumbo Jumbo” represented the natural evolution of where Tumbleweed had to go as a band. After sitting through “Sounds From The Other Side” it has become quite clear that this is not the case because the music made by Tumbleweed circa 2013 is more intense, heavier, and weirder and covered in a hell of a lot more psyche and prog dynamics than Tumbleweed circa 2000. What “Sounds From The Other Side” represents is the natural evolution of the Tumbleweed sound circa 1995. Much like the re-united Dinosaur Jr whilst the band leans on the spirit of their formative years (1990 to 1995) the creative growth the band illustrated post Galactaphonic (Return To Earth and Mumbo Jumbo) is still on full display even though only three of the five members were present during this era.
Career Logistics aside, the main point to focus on is that this is not about Nostalgia and it is the first new steps of a new path for Tumbleweed. There were always going to be similarities stylistically to the bands older material but like Soundgarden did with King Animal, there is also a new mood for a new decade of progression. The importance of “Sounds From The Other Side” is in the fact that it re-establishes the band right back where it belongs, making incredibly vital alternative rock n roll.
As a fan of Tumbleweed I get chills every time I press play on this record. I am literally flawed with how brilliant the album is and I feel blessed to have Lenny, Jay, Steve, Paul and Richie back together making noise once again. When I first heard Tumbleweed, the term Stoner Rock was not something that existed in my vocabulary, but as the years progressed I started to understand that the love I started to have for “that sound” all started 18 years ago with Galactaphonic. In 2013 I feel like I’m a bit of a Stoner Rock fiend even though I hate the genre term myself but I guess I just love “that sound” which it’s attached to. To hear one of the pioneering bands of that sound making something so vital and so progressive in this current climate of mediocrity is so fucking refreshing.
I am in love with this album and I’m still discovering it which thrills me even more. There is longevity to this album and I feel like it will take me months to fully find all of the wonderful little nuances of each and every track. I may be a fan of lot of different genres of music but nothing gets me off like a really great rock record and “Sounds From The Other Side” is a fantastic and totally exquisite piece of rock n roll.
I can’t wait for the next ten years of Tumbleweed history, thank fuck they are back.
May they live for a billion years
10 Cassette Tapes out of 10
By: Dan Newton