All Them Witches is a rock band with a psychedelic blues tinge that reflects their southern-but-also-hip hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. Although All Them Witches can really deal in those druggy, heavy-hitting riffs that make you want to knock back a six pack in the desert, they also have a real musicianship that’s too often lacking in the dime-a-dozen bands that are usually described with words like “psychedelic, “druggy,” “six pack,” and “desert” in the first two sentences. The four-piece have those Nashville chops that are deep fried from playing along with Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd tapes as a kid, and they’ve given us a steady diet of studio and live albums and EPs every year since they started in 2012. On their fourth album, Sleeping Through The War, All Them Witches finely balances return-to-form with reaching-out experimentation. While some tracks just didn’t work for me, every track on here at least feels complete, giving this album a thematic feel that has me coming back.
The opening track, “Bulls,” is an odd one, because it more or less introduces you to everything All Them Witches is going to experiment with on this album - bird calls, bells and door knocks, backup singers going “do do dooo,” and a night-and-day back-and-forth between mellow guitars and pulsating riffs - but it also is probably the one track on Sleeping Through The War where all those things just don’t work too well. The production is almost too warm and friendly, and the second half comes off as a Lightning Bolt imitation. I’m sorry All Them Witches, but warm, friendly, and Lightning Bolt just aren’t who you are.
All Them Witches feels much more comfortable on the next two tracks, “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and “Bruce Lee” (I’m not sure why Bruce Lee gets a shoutout on this one, but hey I approve). “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” may be my favorite track on the album - it perfects the quiet-down-now-turn-it-up progression that only half-works on the rest of the album, and Charles Parks’ vocals are confidently badass (the way he says “She tell me it’s alright - BUT IT AIN’T, IS IT?? IT AIN’T EVEN CLOSE!!” may be the highlight of the whole album).
At first I didn’t like the next track - “3-5-7,” one of the lead singles - because the omg-it’s-so-fuzzy riff at the beginning seems cheap and undeserving. But after the one-minute mark I’m reminded that this is an All Them Witches track: The guitar solos, the organ, and the backup singers from “Bulls” (Caitlin Rose, Tristen, and Erin Rae) all come together to make this super fuzzy riff worthwhile to finish off the first half of Sleeping Through The War.
The first track of the second half, “Am I Going Up?”, is very similar to the first track, “Bulls,” in that it experiments with things we don’t see on any other All Them Witches song, and it doesn’t really seem to work. The single, super-thick guitar strum that mimics the fuzz on “3-5-7” just seems unnecessary and out of place with the atmospheric backing guitar that at times sounds like a louder This Will Destroy You, meant to have on in the background rather than be the main focus.
“Alabaster,” on the other hand, is probably the song that will be talked about the most: It’s the most bizarre and outright desert rock track on the album. By desert rock I don’t mean Palm Desert rock (i.e., Queens of the Stone Age), I mean you’re-in-the-fucking-desert-,-man rock. There are bird caws. There are snake rattles. There are bongos. I can picture Charles Parks dressed as a shaman as he sings
“I know the doctor’s face, I know the preacher’s face, I know the _______ face”
over and over, and if I’m in just the right mood, I really love it. You can tell that All Them Witches probably took forever recording this song - I discover a new layer with every listen - so give this one a few tries for sure.
“Cowboy Kirk” and “Internet” are a real bring-it-on-home for All Them Witches, coming back to the thick, bluesy rock that is their wheelhouse. Robby Staebler’s drums on “Cowboy Kirk” have a great feel that you can only hone by listening to Led Zeppelin over and over again in your childhood basement, and the “I love you like I love _____” refrain is a tried-and-true form that All Them Witches somehow keeps alight and genuine. “Internet” gives us the most memorable and quotable chorus, “Guess I’ll go live on the Internet,” but if it weren’t for that chorus, I’d think we were in the 70s: the layered guitars are that groovy combo of melodic and percussive that’s hard to find nowadays, and the hypnotic guitar work in the second half is reminiscent of the more dazed-out Beatles tracks. The harmonica (Mickey Raphael) makes you shake your head and go “man…” which is probably the best way to end an album.
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