The Huaraches exist in a strange, dark, wonderful place in the space-time continuum. The band was born in Kingston, ON, and now they have blessed us with a recording to sharpen our teeth with. Their debut album “Ride” is just that: a thrilling, mysterious, spaced-out ride into the unknown.This album is overflowing with wickedly delicious surf rock, liberally smeared with punk energy and whatever other influences the band wants to pull from: westerns, sci-fi, Mexican wrestling, film noir, and dark rockabilly overtones are all sucked up into their nervy hailstorm of full-volume rock and roll. The guitars tear and pull at each other like angry cats trapped at the bottom of a well, echoes abound, and the rhythm section slams through the whole thing with an energy that is both bruising and dexterous.
“Zzyzx Road” is a gorgeous, dramatic opener which only serves to set the table for what’s to come. A lone trumpet signals a forgotten menace, a threatening half-realized dream of wandering through the desert with a pistol and a handful of peyote buttons. But the dream is real, and it’s happening now. You wake with sand in your eyes and an unquenchable thirst. You shake your head and look around blearily. Scorpions scurry away and strange things hiss at you from the darkness. Shadows lurch and dart through your peripheral vision, taunting you with spectral electric guitar sounds. A creeping tension builds until the very air is changed with electrical potential. A mysterious band of strangers offer you a lift, and with no civilization in sight, you hop aboard for whatever entrancing weirdness comes next.
And then, with a crack of thunder, the journey has begun. From that point, the album takes off. It’s a convertible at full speed, down the desert highway and away from the light.
First stop is giddy, rolling rock monster that is “Pole Nectar”, complete with classic surf drum fills and slashing guitars. The bass dances around with mischievous glee, filling up the negative space and shoving the indelible melodies as deep into your ears as humanly possible. “The Shaker” keeps the vibrations going, with serpentine descending riffs coiling around you, as you scan the horizons for whatever comes next. It rumbles your innards like the footsteps of a tequila-drunk giant, thrusting you onward in mortal terror. You know it’s time to go further, faster, funkier. Peals of guitar tear through your fear, like bullets from the murk.
“Jaywalk, Don’t Run” ups the stakes. You’re not holding the wheel on this trip. The Huaraches push you into white-knuckle madness as they laugh from the driver’s side. There’s grinding urgency to this song, coupled with some groovy tempo changes; the steering of the car is being tested. You laugh too, knowing that this ride will take you to some of the strangest, most wonderful places.
“Chuggin’” feels like a stop at some beautifully seedy roadhouse, where people gamble away their time and drink until the bartender throws them back out into the night, where they take to the road once again. “Saucy” is where the convertible crashes at full speed, sending you sailing bodily out into the night, where ever stranger fates await you. There’s a mid-record respite on “Camel Meat”, where we find ourselves in a dreamy purgatorial state where guitar notes fall in the air as water droplets.
But the break is only momentary, because “Bad For The World” proves there are still more surreal Lynchian places to explore. The interplay on this song is intense and imbued with a seductive sense of danger. But in behind these sounds the wind and the dust are blowing, slowly grinding away at things with the march of time. There are more roads to be travelled. Once again, the ride is on.
“The Ballad of Dave Stieb” honours an old hero, the only type of hero in this story. He’s one of the many weird characters you’ve met on this journey, so you stop and carouse with him for a while, before The Huaraches drag you back onto the moonlit road. “Anal Leakage” is pounding and spacey. This song is a blistering showcase for this band. It’s dramatic and audacious. “Zooma Hey” comes on like one of those really sinister cartoon villains, the ones who sing a song about how they’re about to eat you. Your fate is sealed, and now you have to pay up.
The album finishes with a demented and powerful one-two punch: “A Nerd In Tunisia” and “A Fast One” are steeped in a reckless punk vibration fueled by nuclear waste, coupled with riffs that pulverize each other with the sheer force of true jackhammer rock and roll. Now the earth cracks and swallows you whole, down into a distorted abyss of punk fury.
But you open your eyes and find yourself back where you began.The convertible pulls over abruptly, and The Huaraches deposit you right back onto the same desolate highway where they found you. They’ve stolen your change and gotten you drunk. They’ve made you dance and taught you to embrace the beyond. You watched as they arm-wrestled the Devil himself, and won.
Like a glowing spacecraft, the songs hang in the air for a few seconds, before they disappear with the sonic boom still rattling around in your skull. You are once again alone in the desert, with a sinister grin plastered to your face. This is The Huaraches. Take the ride.