Desert Clouds – Planexit Review

When Britain left the European Union, nearly every country in the Union had a populist party or two stand up and shout: “Now it’s our turn!” Variations on the name Brexit were the hippest hashtags for a fortnight, including Nexit for the Netherlands, the unwieldy Italexit for Italy, and the strangely upbeat Fixit for Finland.1 With a wry smile and knowing wink, London-based quartet Desert Clouds decided to base these political kerfuffles in a more cosmic scenario. What kind of union is the titular planet exiting though? And who would be the equivalent of Boris Johnson in this allegory?

When I see the word “Desert” in a band name, I have a preconceived notion of what the music is going to sound like, and Planexit does nothing to dissuade me from such biases. This is largely stoner metal by the Kyuss playbook, including the common psychedelic roots, and sprinkling in some grunge for a more streetwise punch.2 The individual elements are thus not unexpected: fuzzy riffs, drawling vocals, and the occasional descent into the hazy smoke of peyote trips. It’s a smart move to set this tried and true style to the backdrop of interstellar existentialism; science fiction remains a grateful subject to fish from, and it leaves the band a little freer in what direction to take its more psychedelic episodes.

Where Desert Clouds really transcends its peers, though, is simply the writing and execution. The eponymous opener impresses with a strong riff, that gets a few clever variations, including a neat lead-rhythm combo. The vocals retain the familiar drawl that recalls the classic desert rock roots, but there’s an earnestness and rawness to them that arises from the grunge influence. And the employed genres are handled with versatility: the song wanders further into psychedelic territory as it goes, but as soon as follow-up “Mamarse” hits, the needle slams the other way into The Atomic Bitchwax territory, with a quick and infectious 3-minute rager. The album’s real peak is “Staring at the Midnight Sun,” a grand cosmic epic where all the guitars go into overdrive and the vocals put on their best Cornell-meets-Grohl wail.

Though “Midnight Sun” is my favorite, the album hardly crashes and burns afterwards. The songwriting remains clever and eclectic; it mixes more straightforward rockers like “Willow” and “Revolutionary Lies” with psychedelic doom affairs like the addictively bass-heavy “Deceivers” and finishes strong with a touch of Nick Cave on “Speed of Shadow.” Furthermore, it remains engaging throughout with excellent hooks and layered atmosphere. That Planexit achieves these things without breaking new ground is more of an observation than a criticism. There’s no ambitious mixing of genres or extraordinary, endless soundscapes here. There’s good riffs, solid drumming, smooth bass, and vocals with both skill and personality. I can’t even levy a complaint against the production, which is crisp but not too polished, and the mix is spot on.

Desert Clouds don’t aim for the stars, but seem content floating around in their low-orbit space station, surveying the chaos below with a sardonic laugh. It’s a strong, confident affair, one that knows exactly where its strengths and weaknesses lie, makes the most out of the former and shuffles the latter under the rug. I think the band can stand to extend their orbit a bit further, perhaps visit the nearest moon sometime. They certainly have the skills to pull it off. But something must be said for a band that knows what it wants and executes it without fail. Planexit is a delight.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Mandrone Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 25th, 2022

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Can we Fixit? Yes we can!
  2. This seems to be a more frequent combination recently, and given that grunge is the perfect foil for stoner’s tendency to muddle in endless fields of fuzz, it’s a welcome development in my book.
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