Arockalypse Now is a difficult album to review. Joecephus and the George Jonestown Massacre frontman Joey Killingsworth once told me that they are a band whom people either love or hate. If you love them, I don't need to tell you to get this album and if you hate them, I don't need to tell you to stay away from it. The purpose of the review then, is to ask the question of whether or not this particular album is worth picking up in order to see which camp you fall into.
The short answer is yes. This is the band's best album to date and will give you a very good idea of where they have been and where they're headed. Some longtime fans may be disappointed with the direction the band has been going with this album and 2010's Hell or High Water, both of which find them moving further from the underground country norms and further into heavy rock territory. But I applaud them for following their instincts and releasing the kind of music that they know they do best.
With Arockalypse Now, the band offers a sound that combines the speed and energy of early punk with the swagger and melodicism that defined '70s metal. If you're thinking that this is the formula for grunge you would be correct, but grunge was never this much fun.
Fun is indeed the word which could sum up most of this record, as song titles such as "The Dope Smoking Song," "Middle Finger Blues," "Six String Samurai," and "Pimpworth" should alert you to. This is a band who are never guilty of taking themselves too seriously, whether the song be "Pepper Spray," a hilarious take on stalking, or "RX Savior," the best song of their career thus far.
If there is one problem with this album, it is the running time. Sixteen tracks. This isn't the only album guilty of this, but for one that is so clearly influenced by the music of the '70s and '80s, it would make sense for the album to fit on one LP (45 minutes). Still, the mark of a good album is that I'm unable to point out any tracks that should have been omitted in order to reach that goal.
Throughout the album, the listener will hear influences that range from Nazareth to Black Flag, from pre-sellout Aeroesmith to a punk rock take on a George Jones classic. And that's what really matters: this is a fun album that represents everything rock and roll should be about, with Joey Killingsworth leading the way and proving that he should probably be on the short list of the best guitarists in XXX music.
Most of the rock you're going to hear this year will consist of corporate Clear Channel bands like Nickelback or pretentious hipster bullshit that understands neither human emotion or the world we live in. Great pure rock bands are few and far between these days and I would go as far as to say that rock and roll is in far deeper shit than country at this point.
So Arockalypse Now is truly refreshing. These are just Tennessee boys playing rock and fuckin' roll the way God intended it to be played and doing it better than they have on previous albums. Some of you will probably hate the album, but give it a listen before you decide. To me, it's probably one of the five best rock records of the year.