There could be a multitude of reasons why it happens, but very rarely is it a good sign when an artistic piece gets delayed. Whether it’s a movie you’ve been wanting to see for ages or a game that you’ve had reserved for nearly three years, when you anticipate something and it gets pushed back time and again, you go from being anxious about it to worrying. But sometimes the exact opposite happens. Case in point: Maintain Radio Silence, the first album in 12 years from Houston rockers Mr. Plow. It was originally set to be released this past January. Due to Ripple Music signing them just as I was set to write the review, the album got pushed back to this summer with some of the songs trimmed off. Now we have a leaner, meaner album that’s perfect for any type of summer activity.
And Maintain wastes no time in setting up a nice groove with “Sigil” feeling like a long-lost Kyuss track. Between the impeccable grooves of bassist Greg Green and drummer Cory Cousins, as well as the thick, fuzzed-out-of-their-mind riffs of co-vocalists Jeremy Stone and Justin Waggoner, “Sigil” proves that Mr. Plow hasn’t lost a step in the last decade or so of songwriting inactivity. Everything simultaneously feels loose like a jam band, yet in perfect lock-step with each other in a way that only a band that’s been together for so long can attain. This duality is what made me fall in love with the stoner rock genre in the first place. Mr. Plow captures that feeling effortlessly.
As the album progresses, Maintain maintains its heft and enjoyable songwriting. “Shaolin Cowboy” would give Clutch a run for their money, combining endearingly goofy lyrics with incredible singing, hook after hook, and a chorus that won’t leave your head once the track ends. “Hammer Smashed Face,” while getting a mean side-eye from Cannibal Corpse fans,1 grooves with Fu Manchu-esque thickness and ends with an addictive gang-shouted chorus. “Samizdat,” one of Maintain‘s “quieter” moments, builds nicely in the verses until, again, the soaring chorus lifts the song to incredible heights. For a band that hasn’t released an album in 12 years, Mr. Plow hasn’t lost a step in terms of writing a good hook.
From a sound standpoint, Maintain also delivers. Green’s bass feels full and lush, and Cousins’ drumkit punctures through the guitars powerfully. From a songwriting standpoint, there may be some clear standouts on the album, but none of the tracks scream “skip me, please.” That said, the album does feel more front-loaded, with the heavier, groovier songs landing on the album’s A-side and the more laid-back, chill songs filling up the back half. But with the delay, the label and/or the band addressed two chief complaints I initially had about Maintain. First, the album was originally set to release on the band’s Bandcamp as a 12-song album, but it felt a bit overly long. Now condensed into a compact 8-song, 44-minute album, it feels lean and powerful. Also, this screams “summer platter” so loudly, it’s ridiculous. Mind you, I dug Maintain during the winter months, but it’s more suited to long drives on the highway with the sun blaring, or long, lazy afternoons on your porch, drinking a cold beer while the sun sets in the distance.
So delays can sometimes be a good thing, and in Mr. Plow‘s case, it gives Maintain Radio Silence the opportunity to shine brightly. While I made a mistake in not checking out them out the first time around, I won’t be making that same mistake again, as they’ve single-handedly reignited my love of the stoner rock genre. If you’re still confused, though, Mr. Plow, that’s their name. Their name, again, is Mr. Plow.2