Album Review: Big Walnuts Yonder: Big Walnuts Yonder

by Oliver Brink on May 1, 2017

Album artwork by Raymond Pettibon!

What happens when four musicians record an album in three days? Well, as luck would have it, something amazing happens. At least, that’s the case for the debut release of Big Walnuts Yonder. Though they prefer to consider themselves an anti-supergroup—in that they consciously rebel against the cliche of bringing their known sounds to the group—when your band consists of Mike Watt (Minutemen, The Stooges), Nels Cline (Wilco, Nels Cline Singers), Greg Saunier (Deerhoof) and Nick Reinhart (Tera Melos), it is hard to resist slapping the “supergroup” label on them, but be warned, because this band is no mere supergroup, and they are full of surprises.

The first surprising thing, given this fact, is that the album does not sound like a jamming wankfest. The first two songs on the album are incredibly tight, with jazzy funk pieces snarling through the speakers in “All Against All” and continuing with further bravado into “Sponge Bath.” The album’s third track, “Flare Star Phantom,” is the only instrumental on the album, and starts off as a nightmarish cacophony of free jazz noise before blending into a more coherent sounding melody that brings to mind pre-The Dark Side of the Moon Pink Floyd. However, the band wouldn’t want you to think that you can expect more of this and immediately blasts into a punky psych tune, “I Got Marty Feldman Eyes.”

According to the band’s page on their label, Sargent House, the majority of the songs were full band live recordings with minimal overdubs. Vocals were then added a few months later by Reinhart and Watt at their home studios, leaving the final mix duties to Saunier, a perfect choice given his stellar mixing skills on Deerhoof’s albums and elsewhere. Implicitly this should be a jam album, but the group was very careful not to let this be the case. Rather, they shatter the expectations of the viewer. Each song is a delicious surprise in sound, ranging from experimental noise (“Flare Star Phantom”) to protopunk garage power (“Raise the Drawbridges?”) to psychedelic soundscapes (“Forgot to Brush”) and straight up punk rock (“Ready to Pop!”). The band continually proves throughout the album that they are a force to be reckoned with.

Each song delightfully sets up an expectation and then shatters it with the following track.  Instead of having a predictable synthesis of the separate parts, you have four incredible musicians endeavoring to make a unique album that sounds nothing like any else they’ve all put out individually yet succeeding in the best way possible. To put it plainly, Big Walnuts Yonder should be required listening to anyone who claims to love rock and roll. It comes out on May 5. I think you know what to do.

Oliver Brink

Oliver is a lover of film, music, theatre, and art. He writes and works out of Los Angeles.

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