Let’s get things straight: yes, I am fanboying over Nick Oliveri and it is rare for me not to like his work. There, I said it. Yet, I really did not enjoy Stöner’s debut album “Stoners rule”. On paper, getting Nick and Brant back together, plus these impeccable bass lines and production, hyped me to the highest degree but everything else left me unmoved. These long and soft bluesy jams all in finesse and control as well as the lack of strong vocals from Oliveri reminded me more of Brant Bjork’s solo efforts, but without getting any close to that quality level. Still, the album was very spontaneous and had a few unexpected funny moments.
And here they go again. It starts with this… let’s say “very questionable” artwork. Is it brilliant or just the ugliest joke? Imagine if Leo Da Vinci Code drew the Joconde in his own vomit. We also had that rather forgettable first single, I was ready to be disappointed.
But right from the first couple of listens, it is crystal clear to me: the band upped their game. The production is still raw but guitars have a more distinctive sound, less bluesy and more unstable. Vocals are distributed more equitably, and riffs are more inspired and take from a larger range of influences. And what about the many guitar solos, so much more creative! The recipe is not much different, leading to long jams with a strong garage feel. You just have to compare “Strawberry Creek” with the debut’s “Own Yer Blues” to understand what works better on “Totally”. This slab of midrange guitar tone reminds us of the Kyuss days (almost early Qotsa), with the improvised backup vocals and full-on 70’s Octavia guitars, it’s just a lot fresher and so much more generous.
The band even ventures into doom territory on the multilayered “Space Dude and The Burn”. I repeat: Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork trying out doom for one full epic minute. For this alone, it is worth it. An old wise man once told me that a minute is not enough to save an album. But hey, I never cared about what old guys tell me! I also have to mention the fancy riffs on “Turn It Around” and “Stöner Theme”, both slightly dissonant and fierce. And of course that round and busy bass tone all throughout the album. Production is one of the strongest forces of this record. It has character without being over the top, the guitar sound better than ever in this acid rock stoner style and the drums fit perfectly in the mix.
No punk shenanigans nor hippie psych track this time around, just a well-found balance between Nick and Brant’s sonic palette, like in the old days. Even drummer Ryan Güt seems to have a lot more fun without ever being put to the forefront though. What if this careless spirit and obvious fun were enough to make this jam session a lot more enjoyable and successful? Three friends who are not searching to recreate any masterpiece from their past or revolutionize the genre. Just playing whatever the f*** they feel without any prerequisites or boundaries.
With “totally…”, Stöner proves that they can make fun of themselves and finally look like a fully-fledged band with its own sound. Like a Mondo Generator jamming on every track or a Low Desert Punk band on steroids. Not everyone will like it or find it interesting and that is clearly not a milestone in the two frontmen’s respective careers. Yet it’s an album that will win over die-hard fans of these bros and all authentic desert rock lovers. What’s more to ask?
Last modified: 5 May 2022