I have a very biased love towards any band that births from the Kyuss dynasty. If you look at my record collection you’ll see so many bands / artists from this family tree scattered throughout and quite often I’m of the opinion that this little community of artists are responsible for some of my favourite music ever. Those who know me are already aware that my favourite album of all time is “Welcome To Sky Valley” by Kyuss and this decision to place this album in such high esteem speaks volumes about my love of the whole desert scene and Kyuss in particular.
This brings me to VISTA CHINO and their debut album “Peace” which was released earlier this month. Being the devout fan I am I was there when the record store opened to secure my copy and for the past few weeks it has been all I’ve listened to. As mentioned above, I have an extreme bias towards this type of sound and the humans that make up the VISTA CHINO band. There has however been an incredibly confronting backstory to all of this that for a small period of time affected how I viewed and interacted with what has finally become VISTA CHINO. I’ve debated whether I wanted to get into the ugliness of this but I think for the purpose of this review it is vital to document just what level of hell I went through as a fan in terms of being divided over whether I’d end up loving this new entity known as VISTA CHINO.
I’ll be perfectly honest with you; I was not a believer in the whole KYUSS LIVES vehicle but being such an empathetic person I was also heavily conflicted. I found myself becoming one of those fans I despise, the types that don’t evolve with their musical heroes. My emotional attachment to Kyuss is quite intense, so much so that when I found out about the whole KYUSS LIVES thing, I started behaving with such a level of fuckheadedness that I started to scare myself. I hate that purist “the fan dictates the path” type of attitude. My rational brain understood that John Garcia, Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri resurrecting a band and catalogue of music that they were all a part of was a positive thing but the knowledge that they were going to create new music under that name did not sit well with me. There are many reasons for this and lot of them have to do with the Homme and Reeder sized hole that was left.
For those who don’t know, I think there is a bit of history that gets left out of most press releases when it comes to the Kyuss story. I am in no way associated or friends with any of the humans attached to Kyuss, so my information is just as diluted as the next media source but I do have a fairly healthy understanding of the Kyuss timeline. I want to delve a little bit into that before I get to my actual review of VISTA CHINO because I think it is vital to understanding how I reached a point of satisfaction. I want you to know my journey with this band so you understand just how important this debut VISTA CHINO album is for me.
The best place to start is a point I mentioned above, the KYUSS LIVES vehicle. When it was first announced I felt a bit uneasy because for me the core creative dynamic of Kyuss was Homme, Bjork, Reeder and Garcia. I know that Oliveri had is hand in the first two albums but for me Kyuss was always about the magic energy that Homme, Bjork, Garcia and Reeder had. When KYUSS LIVES became a reality I was quite comfortable with the band touring and playing those amazing songs but I knew that it would no doubt lead to new material that would be forever judged and attached to the already flawless legacy that the band established with its four albums.
As a Human, I always believed that the beauty of Kyuss was the diversity in the writing and the creative minds behind that. Brant Bjork always provided the soul to the proceedings and is responsible for some of the bands best known material. Josh Homme was the heart of the band and he brought a unique creative style to the power of the riff. Scott Reeder gave the band the progressive dynamics which really helped expand the already solid sound established on “Wretch” and “Blues For The Red Sun” and John Garcia gave a voice to all of the heavy bummer emotions swirling in and out of each of the humans in Kyuss. As a singer John Garcia was the perfect person to communicate what Kyuss felt and what Kyuss believed. The magic scattered all throughout “Welcome To Sky Valley” is a tribute to this creative chemistry and although Brant Bjork was not present for the creation of the bands final album “…And The Circus Leaves Town” his spirit and sonic template loomed large over the sound of that record.
As a discography, “Wretch,” “Blues For The Red Sun,” “Welcome To Sky Valley” and “…And The Circus Leaves Town” is perfect and the natural end point of the band was vital for their legacy. Some bands say all they need to say in short period of time and the joy of being a fan is having that sonic legacy intact for your listening pleasure. The bands and solo projects birthed after Kyuss ended further strengthened the legacy and birthed a wonderful family tree full of interesting rock music that carried the original spirit that was birthed inside the Kyuss sound. I always appreciated that the band never felt the need to re-unite and that each member attached to Kyuss had moved on to more interesting places creatively.
As an exercise of nostalgia the KYUSS LIVES vehicle was a positive one and although I don’t regret not seeing the band live I do honestly believe that it would have been an amazing experience to witness. When the ugliness of the legal battle became a reality, you know the whole Homme and Reeder VS Garcia and Bjork thing, it started to really bum me out how the legacy was turning out. My great dilemma was that I saw a group of amazing musicians fighting over something I held dear. It was incredibly selfish of me to be as upset about it as I was because I saw the positive and negatives of both sides of the story. Ultimately though I just didn’t want a new Kyuss album unless it had Homme or Reeder (fuck it, even Oliveri) playing on it and even though the mind can wonder about what that would have sounded like I realistically didn’t want it to happen at all.
What I did want to happen was for Brant Bjork and John Garcia to rekindle their creative relationship and in the process have the guitarist of KYUSS LIVES – Bruno Fevery – included so that they could create new music as a band and move forward with a new name and a new hunger for making great rock music of the stoner variety. When all the drama passed and it was announced that KYUSS LIVES was now becoming Vista Chino I was a lot happier as a fan but I still wrote it off for some reason and I feel like a prime fuckhead for doing that.
I did the same thing to Alice In Chains and they proved me wrong, I felt like a fuckhead in that situation as well and regret heavily that I didn’t have more faith in the humans of that band. They have now made two fantastic records and I kind of forget why I was so upset about them continuing. I do know that I still from time to time feel like a fuckhead for being so purist about that situation. Now with the release of “Peace” by Vista Chino I am in another situation where I have once again proved to be a faithless fuckhead and instead of being a purist asshole I should have trusted that what the band was going to do creatively would be worth my time as a fan.
Even when the whole thing became Vista Chino I doubted it would thrill me, I was on some Josh Homme is god trip at the time and the excitement of the new Queens Of The Stone Age record took over my life. Moving back to the trust thing, I should have yes; trusted Garcia and Bjork because I’m an absolute devotee to all of their post-Kyuss work and seeing Brant Bjork live twice as a solo artist has been some of the most life changing live shows ever. I proved once again what a fuckhead I can be and I was so disappointed that I didn’t just trust from the beginning that Garcia and Bjork would do the right thing and in the process craft one of the best rock records of 2013. Fuck I am a complete piece of shit sometimes when it comes to the purist nature of musical legacies.
The real healer in this situation was the album itself and as a rock record “Peace” by Vista Chino is absolutely fantastic. From the moment I pressed play I was on the journey with the band and totally in love with every inch of what was on offer. As I have mentioned so many times before, sometimes I just get really excited by a good rock record and “Peace” is a masterpiece of rock n roll.
The beautiful part of this album is how much it reminded me the importance of John Garcia and Brant Bjork as creative humans. They are two of the finest rock song writers on the planet and to see them back together making such incredible music once again just thrills me beyond belief. The other star of this record is the bands guitarist Bruno Fevery who showcases an understanding of the dynamics that Garcia and Bjork pioneered with Kyuss but also adds his own flavour. This album is the perfect first record for a new decade of creativity for all parties involved and I for one am incredibly excited about the future of Vista Chino.
I have listened to “Peace” every day since it was released and I can’t begin to put into words the amount of joy it brings me. It does share a similar spirit to Kyuss but it is also going outside of that and evolving those dynamics. What excites me most about “Peace” is not the nostalgia it offers but the fact that it is a brave step forward for Garcia and Bjork and is the creative vehicle that both of them needed for the new decade ahead. The creative genius of Brant Bjork is one that I once again worship and I absolutely fucking regret every second that I doubted it, like I’ve mentioned I am a fuckhead for doing that. Garcia, Bjork, Homme, Oliveri, Reeder and Hernandez are all wonderful creative human beings and anyone out there in the music world is foolish to doubt just how important each and every one of them are, I know I love them all deeply and equally.
Where Vista Chino goes from here is what I’m most thrilled about and I’m just so grateful that they exist as a band. With “Peace” Vista Chino have delivered a progressive piece of stoner rock that will help establish them as the new pioneers of the sound for however long they choose to make music together. I personally hope its forever because Vista Chino deserve a legacy all of their own and unlike Kyuss before them I have a feeling that the Vista Chino story will be about longevity and mind expanding music as opposed to youthful glimpses of brilliance and I can’t wait to see the rest of their story written.
So let me be the first to apologise to John Garcia, Brant Bjork and Bruno Fevery for being a fuckhead about the whole thing. I truly regret not believing in you all from the moment this all began but let me just say thank you for making music and thank you for doing justice to the evolution of rock n roll music and helping establishing a new legacy to invest in.
10 Cassette Tapes out of 10
By: Dan Newton