The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
Reviewed By Andrew McKaysmith
Way back in '96, Metallica's James Hetfield and Jason Newstead were in Australia for a promo tour touting the still divisive Load album series. Both made repeated references to the brilliant Kyuss, whose Blue Cheer inspired song craft certainly commanded attention against the grunge narrative of the time. Kyuss had supported Metallica during the Australian leg of the 'Nowhere Else to Roam' tour, which landed on these shores in '93, and how much of an effect John Garcia and co. had on Metallica across each of the nine dates is not necessarily a mystery. I will hypothesise that key elements of the California cantina in the desert-at-dusk vibe of the then in-market album from Kyuss, Blues for the Red Sun, and its follow up, Sky Valley, made their way onto the Load album series. The most notable is the thick, bouncy, blues-inspired riffage, and Lars Ulrich may have paid particular attention to Brant Bjork's ride-soaked drumming.
Regardless of any perceived influence Kyuss had over Metallica, or the myriad other so-called desert rock and stoner bands, Garcia is a relevant and vital artist. His contribution to rock 'n' roll is ongoing, not historical.
On The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues, Garcia offers a mix of new material, re-interpreted Kyuss classics "Green Machine", "Space Cadet", "Gardenia" and "El Rodeo", as well as a few live tracks to pad the album out. One thing that I'll give Garcia credit for is understanding precisely what his audience wants. This is not an exercise in indulgence; the re-interpretation of Kyuss classics is a welcome tribute to Garcia's glorious past. With the exception of a relatively faithful re-recording of "Space Cadet", each track has been re-engineered as an acoustic number. It would interesting to hear the man's thoughts if this is how the songs were initially intended to sound before Josh Hommes excellent, buzz-saw-at-20-paces guitar thrall turned them into the giants they went on to become. Either way, as a listener we are all the better to have both versions, especially "Green Machine", which has become a breezy, jamming number.
"Kylie", one the original tracks proves just how much Led Zeppelin is entwined in both Garcia and Kyuss' DNA. This track is all massive open handed acoustic strumming and vocal callisthenics, perfect for easing oneself into the mystical embrace of Peyote and other less indulgent mind altering mediums. So that's the charm of almost every song on The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues, the album easily takes you somewhere.
It is odd that Garcia, as the voice of Kyuss, is probably the least known of the classic line up. It's not unreasonable to suggest that one of the key strategies in releasing The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues is for the opportunity for Garcia to remind the audience that his contribution to Kyuss was, and continues to be significant. The other benefit is that as so many rock heroes are well into middle age, the reality of life bites and a steady income is required. Keeping his spectre as near to the consciousness of fans old and new is a shrewd move that should mean Garcia can fill 200-300 seat auditoriums around the globe easily.
Finally, as a sucker for hyper-intensive and prominently visual album covers, the coyote and moon graphic accompanying The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues is another stunner. I'd love to prove my attendance at a gig by wearing a T-shirt with that image on the front with tour dates on the back.
More from John Garcia
- John Garcia [review]