The idea of acoustic Stoner Rock isn’t new, but it’s wildly under-explored; there’s an inexorable satisfaction to be found from hearing taught riffage stripped of it’s distortion and presented in earthy, acoustic form. When talking about Stoner Rock, it’s impossible not to mention Kyuss – and when talking Kyuss you can’t fail to mention the band’s frontman, John Garcia. Kyuss remain one of few bands to have really explored the idea of acoustic instrumentation in the world of Stoner Rock. Although the group undoubtedly remains best known for the earth-shattering low rumble they usually produced, their periodic jaunts into the acoustic arena yielded some of their finest work.
It makes sense, then, that Garcia has seen fit to return to that style over twenty years after Kyuss first split. ‘The Coyote Who Spoke In Tongues’, though the first fully acoustic record of his career, feels like a greatest hits of sorts for Garcia. Taking the lack of fuzz pedals and amp stacks out of the equation for a moment, ‘The Coyote…’ is actually a fairly standard record for Garcia. Many of the tropes, both lyrical and musical, that have appeared throughout his work are present and accounted for here. The acoustic instrumentation is undoubtedly the spin on this work. It’s a welcome surprise to hear a full album of such material and it therefore doesn’t matter too much that, in essence, ‘The Coyote…’ is business as usual for Garcia.
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‘The Coyote…’ is a mixture of both new material and old Kyuss favourites, now presented in fully acoustic form. Unsurprisingly, it’s the Kyuss material that stands out the most, but there’s quality to be found in the new material too. The blusey swagger of ‘Give Me 250ml’ is a definite standout; Garcia’s voice is unique in that it ensures everything he does is stamped with a certain idiosyncrasy. As such, nothing on the album feels a surprise as such, but sections of ‘The Coyote…’ do see him work within a blusier frame than before.
For the most part, Garcia has chosen to rework Kyuss songs that were originally anything but acoustic. First comes ‘Blues For The Red Sun’s ‘Green Machine’. Originally a thrashy, frantic desert rock anthem, here Garcia slows things down; lyrics once yelled are now almost crooned and the chorus is mutated into something of a reverie with a bed of strings giving extra texture to the subtle, borderline jazzy guitar. It’s a really well executed reworking that sheds an interesting new light on a much loved song.
‘Gardenia’ and ‘El Rodeo’ are also well picked Kyuss reworkings; both enjoy new, softer arrangements that expose small subtitles easy to miss in the originals. It’s a treat for long-term fans to hear – granted, the guitar work, though very solid, lacks the panache of Josh Homme’s unique and razor sharp style but it’s as good as it’s fair to expect. Less satisfying is another old Kyuss favourite, ‘Space Cadet’. It’s not that there’s anything wrong per se with the version that appears on ‘The Coyote…’, rather than it simply adds nothing new. The song was fully acoustic to begin with, and as solid as the new version is, it simply can’t hope to match the original. What makes the other Kyuss reworkings on the album so worthwhile is how different they are to the originals. ‘Space Cadet’ can’t offer that, and it’s tempting to wonder why Garcia didn’t choose to re-record something that might benefit more from the solely acoustic instrumentation used on ‘The Coyote…’
The rest of the original material on the album is a mixed bag, but definitely one worth investigating. The opening track and single ‘Kylie’ is a rock solid stomper and one of the most energetic tracks on the album. It has the feel of an artist consciously trying to capture the sound of their classic years and not quite matching the energy, but nonetheless it’s a perfectly respectable song. Less impressive is ‘Argleben II’, a somewhat listless ballad that doesn’t quite manage to keep the listener’s attention.
‘The Coyote Who Spoke In Tongues’ is a very solid record and a worthwhile listen, especially for fans of the style. The Kyuss tracks are, for the most part, excellent but the original material ranges from fair to very good without ever quite being exceptional. It’s great to see the under-developed micro-genre of Acoustic Stoner Rock gain another album, though, and fans of Garcia’s past work could do a lot worse than check this album out.