King of the Desert Brant Bjork is back once again, and luckily for me, I get to talk/write about him once more. 2016’s ’Tao Of The Devil’ was a phenomenal release in all aspects; loaded with sweet stoner grooves, filthy fuzz, Sabbathian sounds and blues based goodness, you can understand where the excitement for his latest release may come from. ‘Tao’ certainly set the bar high for any follow up releases, both in the stoner/desert rock genres and in Brant’s own projects.
“Mankind Woman” is a different musical animal compared to its predecessor. As mentioned above, Tao was dirty and heavy, a real raw rocker full of delightful tracks which carried the stoner vibe with ease. “Mankind Woman” on the other hand seems to have traded the purple haze in for peyote, swapping the stoner rock staple sounds out for the psychedelic leanings of the late 60’s ala Hendrix, Blue Cheer, Cream and the rest. Just by listening to the first few bars in “Chocolatize”, the opening track, you can hear the Hendrixian influences and whilst you could argue that this is still in the same sonic vein as Tao, the difference as clear – there is more freedom in the delivery, it is warmer and more vibrant. From here, the rest of the music follows the same path.
“Lazy Wizards” brings the Cream style blues with the simplistic composition, laid back delivery and well controlled guitar licks. “Pisces” packs a quirky rhythm and sound which you could mistake for CCR‘s Bayou blues, heavily percussive in the guitar delivery and “Charlie Gin” which follows keeps this rhythmically tight and animated approach, showing plenty of character and energy but keeping everything in the realm of easy listening.
The desert rock vibes do surface on this release but they aren’t as prominent as you would assume they would be. Title track ”Mankind Woman” has that unmistakable hook which you would associate with Brant Bjork, but it is firmly anchored in the classic rock sound present on the release. The Deep Purple styled blues turn around sequences seem to jump out with that extra fuzz backing them up and the hypnotic Hendrixian boogie flow of “Swagger & Sway” does evoke that feel of cruising through Palm Springs but that is about as typical Brant Bjork desert rock as you will get.
“Somebody” is a gritty, funk-blues freakout which has a wild edge with its gradual increase in intensity and some slick guitar work at play. “Pretty Hairy” is a real livewire of a late-60’s rocker and it wouldn’t sound out of place if it was on a compilation of songs from that era – it nails it perfectly! The same can be said for “1968” with its riff-hook driven sound and raw, dynamic vocal delivery. Closing the album is the wild, heavy, fuzzy and mind melting “Nation Of Indica” which is loaded with psychedelic vibes, raw and wild vocals and a thick bassline. Delivered in a manner which would resemble a preacher delivering a sermon, its wild and passionate feel, along with the departure from the style which dominates the majority of this release makes it an interesting track to wrap this release up.
Ultimately, despite this being fundamentally different to his previous release, you can tell that “Mankind Woman” is a Brant Bjork release. It delivers that free-spirited late-60’s feel with minimal fuss and it retains the Desert Rock roots we all know and love, but personally, whilst I found this album to be both refreshing and highly enjoyable, it still had to stand in the shadow of “Tao Of The Devil” and no matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t lose the expectation I had for the (Purple) hazy stoner riff masterclasses I am used to when you mention Brant Bjork and music.