Tia Carrera – Visitors / Early Purple (Small Stone Records, 22 March 2019)
Many of you may already be familiar with this group, who rose to superstardom when they appeared in the 1992 film Wayne’s World as the fictional band Crucial Taunt, as well as having a few of their songs appear on the soundtrack. But perhaps you soon lost track of these guys, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if you hadn’t heard that several years later they decided to move to Texas, fire the lead singer, fire the rest of the band, bring in a completely new set of musicians, not bring in a new singer, and adopt more of an improvisational psychedelic style.
To cap it all off, they went on to alter the spelling of their name just barely enough to avoid any potential lawsuits. See, in a situation similar to Alice Cooper, who had been the vocalist of the Alice Cooper Band prior to his appearance in Wayne’s World, the original singer of Tia Carrere legally changed her name to the band’s name — using it in her acting career when she, too, played roles in Wayne’s World and its sequel. This left the rest of the band — which, to reiterate, by this time consisted of entirely different members anyway — in an awkward position, and they had little choice other than to change the name to Tia Carrera.
Or to put it another way, virtually nothing I’ve said thus far has been even remotely true, aside from “Texas” and “improvisational psychedelic style.” Austin-based trio Tia Carrera, who (as far as I can tell) are completely unrelated to the similarly-named actress or her fake glam rock cover band, put out an album with two new lengthy songs (their first new material since 2011!) via Small Stone earlier this year, and if you haven’t heard it yet, I’m going to tell you why you should.
Side A, “Visitors,” opens up very much like most rehearsal-room jam sessions: random noodling all over the drumset, an assortment of heavily sustained bass notes, and cutting through the rest is a guitar whose tone closely mimics Woodstock-era Hendrix. The rhythm section quickly locks in together, developing a hypnotic groove that will keep repeating over most of the next eighteen minutes, during which time the guitar snakes its way over and under the rest of the band — producing countless vamps and riffs that, again, would have been right at home on Electric Ladyland.
Truth in advertising laws necessitate that I let you know, this long-form composition never truly goes very far — there is no real building up to new heights or unexpected twists to speak of; and to be completely honest you could probably lift and drop the stylus at any random spot within this track and the transition would be nearly seamless. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, perhaps you’d be better off looking elsewhere for something to fill your earholes. But for this writer’s, the trio packs quite a punch that flawlessly maintains my attention the entire way through. And this coming from someone who simply cannot understand the widespread adoration for Sleep or Sunn O))). But we’re veering dangerously off-topic here.
The other half of the album, naturally, is entitled “Early Purple.” Overall a bit more chilled-out than its predecessor, this piece nevertheless follows a similar style of repetitive grooves in the bass and drums while the guitar does its own thing somewhere in the stratosphere. In contrast with “Visitors,” though, there are clearly discernible and defined high and low points here. That is to say, periods of more or less intensity — not making a comment on the relative quality of the material! The valleys, so to speak, are marked by the guitar stepping back from the lead, and spending some time accompanying the rhythm section in grinding out the foundational grooves underneath.
For those keen on auditory psychedelics, and not afraid to get lost in a sea of endlessly churning grooves, Visitors / Early Purple is available to stream, download, or spin on your turntable via Bandcamp (here) or Amazon (here).
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