I am not ashamed to admit this, but it takes something incredibly special for me to be excited about a simple signpost. A benign, innocent sign nestled in the desert roads of California that, when looked at, conjures up memories of guitars blaring through bass amps, thundering drums, heartier-than-chunky-soup bass, and weed-and-beer soaked vocals about high temperatures, brushing your teeth, and calling the desert home. A sign that resonates within the souls of those who have experienced the musical memories it brings forth. A sign that, whenever viewed, causes people to proclaim, “DUDE!!! FUCKING KYUSS!!!” before high-fives are given, horns are thrown, and smiles are widened, teeth shining brightly. Folks… Kyuss‘s self-titled third full-length, lovingly referred to by everyone as Welcome to Sky Valley,
Sky Valley was one of the most interesting albums to come out of 1994 in that the tracks were put together as three “suites” consisting of three or four songs each (the closing track “Lick Do” being the exception). Even the album’s credits ask the listener to “listen without distraction,” and Sky Valley begged that. Truth be told, that demand wasn’t necessary, as the music itself did a damn good job grabbing the listener’s attention throughout its entirety. Opener “Gardenia” set up a nearly flawless 52 minutes of music with Josh Homme’s fuzzed-out riffs and bassist Scott Reeder’s (ex-The Obsessed) irreplacable groove. John Garcia’s singing would improve immensely since 1992’s Blues for the Red Sun, possessing more desert grit and range (especially on “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop”). It’s Brant Bjork’s presence, however, that sets the stage not only on this song, but also for the rest of the album, with his incredible groove-in-his-back-pocket drumming (more on that later).
Many people have their favorites from Sky Valley, and none are wrong, but the second suite still stands out to me as one of the best sections of three songs put together by anyone. “100°” is a quick, powerful song that shows up, demands you get your groove on, and burns out at the right time, segueing into the slow-but-beautiful “Space Cadet,” supplying the warmth of the sun and the chilled-out atmosphere of taking it slow and steady. It’s the last song of the suite, though, that stands the test of time, and definitely is prime example of Bjork’s godlike status as a drummer. “Demon Cleaner” is hands-down one of the best stoner rock songs ever. Garcia’s gentle crooning about brushing your teeth, Homme’s heavy riffing, and Reeder’s basslines coalesce to perfection, but it’s Bjork’s performance that shines here. Simply put, he fucking owns on this song, his swagger and groove second to none, his rhythmic, driving drumming commanding you to get off of your ass, bang your head, and get moving NOW. It was quite a prophetic final statement, as Bjork would leave the band shortly after Sky Valley was finished due to inner-band turmoil.
Kyuss would release one more album, the appropriately-titled …And the Circus Leaves Town, before calling it a day in 1995. Homme would go on to front the radically successful Queens of the Stone Age while Bjork and Garcia would reunite with original Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri in 2010 (with guitarist Bruno Fevery in tow) as Kyuss Lives! before being sued by both Homme and Reeder, forcing them to change the name to Vista Chino (sans Oliveri) in 2013. Regardless of what the members do now, their place in stoner rock history is cemented. They should also be proud of making people go all giggly and nostalgic over a signpost.