California X return with Nights In The Dark, replete with sub-Adventure Time play on words cover art that does the work far fewer favours than that of their self-titled debut. Does it herald a change of musical direction or did it just seem a good idea at the time?
No and probably are the two answers to those questions. You can expect the same metal-leaning grunge as previously laid down on California X, other than on the rather drippy one and a half minutes of the instrumental ‘Ayla’s Song’ and the mostly clean, chorus-pedal heavy ‘Garlic Road’. Unfortunately the brighter feeling and energy of album number one is very often submerged on the remainder of Nights In The Dark.
Pace has taken a back seat to make way for heavier, prolonged riffing (see the six minutes of ‘Blackrazor, Pt.2’) which too often makes the album sound like an experiment in imagining what else J. Mascis might have tried to do in the late Nineties when he was amusing himself with Upside Down Cross. As an experiment it’s a failure, mainly because the riffs are a drag and the songs in general lack decent ideas along with that aforementioned energy that still makes the earlier output still worth listening to. No song here comes close to the soaring enjoyment of ‘Spider X’, for example.
Possibly this is an example of the “difficult” second album and the band’s next effort may either see them fully realise whatever it is they’ve aimed to achieve here or rediscover whatever it was they had when in the studio the first time around but until that work is in the can they’ve a while of treading water with the new material ahead of them.