July 5, 2011 by Dan Swinhoe
Being in most of the best metal bands of the new millennium gives you license to do pretty much what you want. Anyone who’s seen Mastodon’s video for Deathbound that was released this week (think Sesame Street meets Armageddon) or the parody advert Hinds did for Elmyr’s not long ago
And like so many rock stars (looking at you, Mike Patton & Phil Anselmo), Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds has used his name to get a major release for some of his side projects, Fiend Without a Face and West End Motel.
People expecting some lost gem or Mastodon 2.0 will be sorely disappointed. The first disc, Fiend Without A Face, is just plain weird. Performing on stage sporting veils and Fezs, it sounds like the soundtrack to a B-movie surf horror.
The album jumps from acid-tinged surf rock through country, bluegrass and even a bit of punk. Think Mastodon meets the Legendary Shack Shakers. It’s very rough around the edges and feels more like a bunch of demos. Most of the songs lack proper cohesion and never really get going. Brent’s vocals sound deranged, and while his fretwork is very impressive, it’s all over the place. Despite all this, it is kind of charming. It retains a loose, jamming feel, and has a vibe of spontaneity about it. At times the genius of Mastodon shines through (and occasionally echos of Queens of The Stone Age) but quickly disappears.
West End Motel is a different band, entirely, with only Brent remaining, and is as a radical change from Fiend Without a Face as you can get. In the place of psychedelic surf rock we get dark folky tunes, more in line with Nick Cave and the Pogues than the Beach Boys.
The band describe themselves as “a conglomerate of losers and poets and hobo-sexuals. The music is honest, like a Filipino kid tap dancing in the wind.They are a gospel band, they are a soul band, they are a band of gypsies.” And unlike most self gratifying PR it’s actually pretty on the money. It’s olde timey bar music to get drunk to and sing along with. It’s far more cohesive than FWIAF, even if it does lack the more unhinged fretwork, and the singing is far better. The lyrics generally keep in the folky themes, the devil, love etc. There’s even promises of laying kisses upon your nose if you’re nice to the band.
This is a nice little release for fans of Brent, and people who like music either fucked up or a little tongue in cheek. They both have their faults, but are charming all the same.