“Sleeping through the war…this is what we’re doing. There are so many terrible things going on in the world and we’re just staring at our phones, and we don’t see it so we don’t care.”
Charles Michael Parks Jr, singer/bassist for Nashville-based quartet All Them Witches doesn’t mince his words when talking about their latest album. Sleeping Through The War is their fourth LP in five years. They’ve been busy on the live front too, with three European tours in 2016 alone – sold-out shows across the UK included.
All Them Witches mix the desert rock of Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age with the improvised blues rock of The Wave Pictures. The band is made up of Parks, Jr. (vocals/bass), Ben McLeod (guitar), Allan Van Cleave (keys), Robby Staebler (drums); Sleeping Through The War is made up of eight songs. All Them Witches’ previous release was an EP made up of a single instrumental track lasting 25 minutes, so any nod towards convention is to be welcomed; “The songs are catchier, they’re faster and there’s more singing. Or talking. Or whatever I’m doing”, says Parks Jr.
‘Bulls’ opens with the surf guitar of The Pixies circa 1991, and evolves into a modern day incarnation of the Bostonians for the chorus. Sadly the song outstays its welcome. At over six and a half minutes long is three to four times the average Surfer Rosa tune. It devolves into Frank Black territory; meandering and unfocused. Black’s solo work was often recorded live to two track in a single take and ATW have taken a similar approach with Sleeping Through The War, with similar results.
ATW are more known for lengthy jams than succinct songwriting. While they fail to embrace the latter on ‘Bulls’, ‘Don’t Bring Me Coffee’ gets it right. The production fails to tease it out fully but there are killer riffs and a catchy chorus in there, you just need to listen hard to unearth them. ‘3-5-7’ keeps promising to erupt into a new movement or a cacophonous crescendo but neither emerges and we're left with a monotonous dirge. ‘Am I Going Up?’ has a similar feel but in ‘Alabaster’ the band find their mojo again. A bouncing arpeggio and bluesy vocal build up to a simple distorted refrain that contrasts with the gorgeous Nashville backing vocals.
The whole album was written in six days, so it is therefore quite remarkable that it is so cohesive. Then again, a little longer spent writing it would have increased the quality of the music. It’s an ideal album for listening to in the bath; languid and unassuming. But those same qualities make it ignorable, which is the greatest sin any band can commit. You may find yourself sleeping through this record.