Review Summary: An appropriately raw, auspicious start for the legendary Kyuss.
To most of the music world, Kyuss is the stuff of legends. Buried out in the deserts of California, the band that helped revolutionize stoner metal often goes unheard of. I’m impressed if I meet somebody who’s even heard of Kyuss. Thanks to the success of guitarist Josh Homme’s second band, Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss has gotten some much-deserved retroactive attention, but they still remain in the background of music.
Kyuss is mostly known for their two magnum opi, Blues for the Red Sun
and Welcome to Sky Valley
. I remember the first time I listened to these albums. I was confused; I was amazed. Being a huge QotSA fan and moderate Them Crooked Vultures fan, I thought I was familiar with Josh Homme’s style of simple riffs and chugging progressions. Kyuss proved me all wrong. Kyuss was a dream land of crazy, awesome guitar riffs, laden with psychedelic touches and intense grooves. Kyuss was like nothing I’d ever heard, and I was in love after my very first listen.
And Sky Valley…
are two monolithic albums that are hard to top. But in the wake of those two monster releases, Kyuss’ first album, Wretch
, goes almost unnoticed. Even the biggest legends have humble beginnings, and that’s exactly what Wretch
The album starts off with '(The Beginning of What’s About to Happen) Hwy 74', which opens with a series of blitzing guitar riffs. The song is much different than later Kyuss and Queens songs; it gives a clearer example of the roots of the band. 'Hwy 74' is upbeat; it’s quick; it’s quirky. The song runs through a marathon workout of riffs before coming to a close and continuing to the rest of the album.
With upbeat, fast songs like 'Hwy 74' and 'Katzenjammer' (the latter being the original name of the band), we can see a totally different side of Kyuss. Though Kyuss’ style would later evolve into slow, intense, chugging songs like ‘Thumb’ and ‘Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop,’ most people forget that Kyuss started off as a bunch of teenagers jamming in a garage after school. Songs like 'Katzenjammer' show the influence of punk on Homme and Bjork, who still add a Kyuss touch with a slower riff-based bridge in the center of the song. Later, Kyuss would release more punk-oriented songs such as ‘100 Degrees,’ ‘Hurricane’ and 'Flip the Phase,' but none are as raw as 'Katzenjammer.'
And just as Wretch
shows the roots of Kyuss, it also shows the potential of what the band would become. Tracks like ‘Son of a Bitch’ and ‘The Law’ are auspicious examples of the slower, psychedelic songs that Kyuss would later release. Both ‘Son of a Bitch’ and ‘The Law’ have slower grooves in the vein of the Kyuss that most people know. ‘The Law,’ easily the best track off the album, and is the quintessence of early Kyuss: the song starts off with a fast series of riffs, but later drops off into a slow, grooving stoner atmosphere. The song, coming close to 8 minutes in length and featuring long instrumental passages, is the album’s epic masterpiece, much like ‘Freedom Run,’ ‘Whitewater,’ and ‘Spaceship Landing’ are to their respective albums.
Unfortunately, though, the album does have quite a few flaws. One immediately recognizable flaw is the production. The bass has incredibly high treble and is inaudible throughout most of the songs. The entire album has a raw feel, which COULD be a positive thing. Unfortunately, it’s so incredibly under polished that it drags down the overall quality of the album. It sounds like garage recordings, and though the album was recorded in a studio, I suppose it’s appropriate that the rawness of the sound mimics the rawness of the band at the time. In addition to production, some of the tracks are also subpar. Songs like ‘Black Widow’ and ‘Big Bikes’ are cheesy and forgettable. Few tracks besides ‘The Law’ really stand out, and the lack of outstanding music is a huge flaw of the album. Of course I’m going to listen to Blues…
or Sky Valley...
; the songs of the first two are all excellent. I do occasionally listen to Wretch, but it’s usually only ‘Hwy 74’ or ‘The Law,’ because most of the other songs are just not that good. That may be the albums biggest flaw.
All in all, Kyuss make a good case in their debut album, Wretch
. It is nothing compared to what the band would later do, but serves as a humble showcase of the band’s roots and beginnings. If you’re a Kyuss fan, I would definitely suggest a listen. Otherwise, this album is just slightly above-average and, unfortunately, forgettable.
-Good tracks like ‘Hwy 74,’ ‘The Law,’ and ‘Son of a Bitch’ bring the album's quality up a bit, but the rest of the music is just average.
-Kyuss, as heard on Wretch
Guitars: Josh Homme
Bass: Nick Oliveri
Drums: Brant Bjork
Vocals: John Garcia