For a man whose musical career is soaked in bong water, Brant Bjork seems to be a something of a workaholic. Over the last twenty-five years he’s remained as consistent as AC/DC, churning out sun-baked desert rock anthems with Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Mondo Generator, Vista Chino and (when he has time) on his twelve full solo albums. Say what you want about the devil’s lettuce, it certainly hasn’t stopped Brant Bjork’s output.
Solo album number thirteen, Mankind Woman, contains no major curveballs. Brant is almost on his own here, free to indulge his well-mined Sabbath/Zeppelin influences to their fullest extent. Listening to the bass groove on “Chocolatize” (which can be streamed here) as Brant croons about a “funky revolution,” you can feel yourself fall back through the years. You’ll be busting out the jean-jacket in no time.
“Pisces” has some bluesy fingerpicking worthy of Cream, and “Charlie Gin” gets into Pete Townsend territory with its huge wind-milling rhythm chords. So far, Brant Bjork is running down the list of his musical heroes, but it works. This is a template so well-used it has started to lose its features. But Brant has been doing this for so long, he sounds like a members of the club. Listening to Mankind Woman, you get the sense that you have found an unknown early ‘70s gem, not some pale imitation. Never indulgent, but always tasteful, Brant Bjork has learned all the right lessons; less is always, always more and that catchy grooves beat technicality almost every time.
Nowhere is this on better display then the album highlight “Somebody.” The shadow of Kyuss’ greatest work hangs over the song, which is a psychedelic rabbit-hole to a world of endlessly smooth blues riffs. If the kid who recorded Blues for the Red Sun so long ago could hear this now, he’d be happy knowing his legacy was this solid. You can’t fake this kind of dedication
Saving his finale for the end, Brant Bjork drops “Nation of Indica” on us with little warning. For the first time, the Zeppelin comparisons feel totally earned. Actually, the song is more what might have happened if Robert Plant had replaced Ozzy in Sabbath instead of Dio. As Brant howls his refrain of “what makes the man…” the rush is like acid straight to the brain. Drop out.
There aren’t many real rockstars anymore, but Brant Bjork is one of them. He’s earned his stripes long ago, and we’re lucky to have him. And honestly, by the time anyone reaches album 13, you know what you’re going to get.
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