No, this isn’t the title of the second Palmsszzzzzzzz record. Vista Chino is the mercifully rechristened Kyuss Lives! (A moniker so abysmal that even something like Kinda Kyuss would’ve been an acceptable alternative.) John Garcia and Brant Bjork’s resuscitated baby now has a name befitting something classier than a casino-circuit cabaret act, and they’ve got eyes on reclaiming the long-abdicated stoner / desert rock throne.
2013 is becoming the year of comeback records: Gorguts, Carcass, and now Kyuss. Well, kinda Kyuss. Where Gorguts and Carcass have made their comebacks with highly-modified lineups, the legitimacy has never been in question due to the presence of principal songwriters. The Vista Chino situation is a little stickier. While they claim a higher percentage of “true” members than the aforementioned acts—eternal liability Nick Oliveri seems to be more in Vista Chino than out of it, at least as of last Wednesday—there’s a glaring, Josh Homme-sized void here. So while Peace is unquestionably Kyussian in spirit, new guitarist Bruno Fevery is too obviously a plug n’ play stand-in.
Some will find Homme’s absence insurmountable, a glaring flaw that impedes Vista Chino‘s authenticity. This isn’t entirely fair. Much like Alice In Chains’ William DuVall, Fevery plays his role dutifully. Yet the Vista Chino package ultimately lacks the intangible brilliance that triggered the initial love affair. The fleeting, fevered magic that graced Blues For The Red Sun and (Welcome to Sky Valley) isn’t here. But let’s be honest: It was never going to be. Homme or no Homme.
In that sense, the litigation that led to the band’s rebranding is a bit of a disguised blessing. While Vista Chino is obviously Kyuss, they also obviously aren’t Kyuss, and that’s okay. Whether you take that duality as a cynical charade or a joyous liberation is a matter of perception, but Peace packs enough swag to make the latter option more appealing, at least fleetingly.
Bjork swings with familiar fervor, and Garcia’s voice—while a bit creakier and odder than in his halcyon days—is all cozy smoke. But does “Dargona Dragona” have a big enough hook to lock you in? Will the laid-back, spliffed-out rumble of “Planets 1 & 2” keep you from veering off the highway and onto the next exit marked ‘Sky Valley’? Will the ultrafat, Red Sun rumblequake of “Dark and Lovely” have you lusting after these new wares as if they were brand-new tales of desert debauchery rather than old-man throwback machinations?
Probably not. But you’ll likely plunk down some sweet coin to hear Kyuss Lives! Vista Chino rev the engines of Peace’s “Sweet Remain” alongside “Gardenia” and “Green Machine.” And that’s all that really matters. Ancient (and in this case, once-deceased) bands aren’t expecting to blow everyone’s doors off with new tuneage, they’re just hoping to get a feel for the road again. Peace may not be worthy of scoring a cross-country love affair, but a decent-enough effort that will stoke interest in the prospective journey.