Are Bong for real? I mean, they’re called BONG for pity’s sake. We’ve already had Bongwater, Bongzilla, Bong-Ra, Children of the Bong, Cypress Hill’s Hits From The Bong, Welsh stoner-songwriter Cate Le Bong, and sanctimonious spliffhead Bong-o from U2. And now just plain old Bong?! (not to mention there’s already been the early Nineties dance act Bong and a dubstep producer called, yep, Bong.)
'Hey, dude. You know, we should, like, totally form a stoner rock band.''Woah, yeah. Heavy, man. What shall we call ourselves?' 'Erm... (stares through bloodshot, heavy-lidded eyes, struggling to focus through the cloud of smoke at the assorted paraphernalia lying in front of the hot-rock-holed sofa) ... Bong?' 'Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude.'
(Bong might well hail from the north-east of England but there is NO WAY they don’t talk like this)
And what do Bong go and call their latest record? Not The Bong Remains the Same. Not The Bong Good Friday. Not Bongs in the Key of Life. Not Ganj-dela: The Bong Walk to Weedom. Not even The Gnarliness of the Bong Distance Rizla. No, Bong go and call their record Stoner Rock. STONER ROCK! How long did that take them? They won’t know themselves, of course, they’ll have been running on 'marijuana minutes'.
Talk about weed hampering your creativity and motivation, it’s enough to make you stub out your bifta on the lid of the nearest bootleg Bob Marley tin, donate your Kyuss t-shirt to Oxfam, move into a monastery and finally complete that novel you never started.
So what kind of music do Bong play on Stoner Rock? Well, it doesn’t take Cumberdick Blunderflaps wearing a deerstalker and having trendy hashtags projected onto his nobleman’s face to work that out, does it? Well... hang on... Bong don’t actually play stoner rock in the strictest sense. A more accurate title would’ve been Drone Rock. And a more honest one would’ve been Average Drone Rock.
With its two long tracks of repetitive, distorted droning, Stoner Rock probably sounds how Sleep’s Dopesmoker sounds to people who don’t like, understand, or have the patience for Sleep’s Dopesmoker. Basically speaking, you can nip off to the kitchen, rustle up a cup of coffee and bacon sandwich, come back and only have missed a couple of chords and half a drumbeat.
Whereas Sunn O))) took Earth as their starting point and then slowly evolved (being careful to play their music as slowly as actual biological evolution), Bong embrace that whole Earth/Sunn O)))/Om vibe without really bringing anything new to the grass-dusted table. There are a couple of moments when they consider transcending these influences and start to resemble a decelerated Hawkwind. There is the spacey guitar effect that is introduced in the second half of the first 35-minute track ‘Polaris’. Then there is the preposterous Michael Moorcock-evoking spoken-word section that emerges halfway through the second 35-minute track ‘Out of the Aeons’, using a vocabulary lethargically selected from Roget’s Concise Sci-fi & Fantasy Thesaurus (i.e. the monologue includes words such as “sacred” and “dwelt”). Warhammer sermon notwithstanding, ‘Out of the Aeons’ is the strongest of these two menhir-ditties, with more delicate guitar textures shimmering below the hefty rumbling mega-chords.
Bong? Stoner Rock? ‘Out of the Aeons’? 'Dwelt'? I’m starting to suspect that Stoner Rock is a parody of a genre that never took itself too seriously in the first place. A genre that doesn’t need much parodying. A genre that has always giggled in baked disbelief at the brazenness of its own excesses.
5J.R. Moores's Score