Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds’ name evokes a certain reverence. As he continues to piece together projects and release crushing albums to delight metalheads, any new record with his name in the credits will be a big draw. The canned island beat sample, jangly guitar, and horn section that welcomes new listeners to West End Motel’s Only Time Can Tell, then, might seem like a mistake, like some major malfunction at the record label’s packaging factory, some indie rock fans popping in a new disc only to be bombarded with metal riffs. Listen closely, though, and you’ll pick out signs of menace in the midst of the retro rock stylings.
Though sung in what can only be called an attempt at breeziness from someone who’s not typically breezy, the lyrics of that opener, “Burn It Down”, get into some decidedly shady territory. “I got some coke and it’s in my pocket/ I got some pills and they’re not from a doctor,” Hinds wails, before going on to talk about burning down a house. Later, an entirely Springsteen-y track, complete with massive saxophones, falls under the unlikely title “Witch is Dead”, screaming and not going home featuring prominently.
Hinds and Tom Cheshire (of the Rent Boys and All Night Drug Prowling Wolves) develop a uniquely twisted take on the past, relishing the dark elements that the sheen of ’70s pop denied outright. “Bite” rides on a simple chord progression before coming into focus around a crackling guitar solo, smog on the water rather than smoke, while the rough-necked carnival swagger of “Forgiveness” dabbles in cackling revisionism. Rather than living in the past, West End Motel remake the past in their own image.
Essential Tracks: “Burn It Down”, “Forgiveness”