ear to the ground

The doom titans’ first recording in more than 20 years is even more monstrously throbbing than their genre-defining early work.

Oh sure, it’s easy to look back on the early ’90s and get all nostalgic about rock ’n’ roll—especially if you were into shirtless dudes in cargo shorts yarling into a wireless mic about how hard it was to be a middle-class kid in Seattle. But if grunge wasn't your cup of tea, you had to look harder to find the real deal.

Luckily for San Jose, California, Cameron Crowe never considered shooting his 1992 film Singles there. If you lived in or around the South Bay Area at that time, the band Sleep was a best-kept secret. Before the seminal power-trio recorded its ’92 magnum opus, Holy Mountain, nobody else was turning Black Sabbath into a genre. Or a lifestyle. Back then, if you caught a Sleep show at the Cactus Club, beautiful longhaired girls in denim and corduroy bellbottoms gathered in front of the stage. There was even a stoner-rock store named after Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan”—and this was before the phrase “stoner rock” was even coined.

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This all-female Spanish garage-rock outfit writes catchy songs that are perfect for vintage B-movie soundtracks.

Who knew old-school garage rock is huge in Spain? Like American garage, the genre is largely dude-dominated, so that makes Las Sultanas—an all-female quintet from the breezy seaside town of Alicante—doubly refreshing. But of course it’s their love for vintage, surf-toned guitars, hep go-go rhythms, and classic girl-group vocals that will win you over.

From the Moorish-inspired riffs and sparkling reverberations of what could be an old Fender Mustang to the ’60s proto-punk attack and unison vocals, Las Sultanas rocks with the confidence and attitude of the Dagger Debs gang from the old exploitation film Switchblade Sisters.

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In the mood for sultry noise rock? Dexy Valentine sounds like she was born to keep rock ’n’ roll dangerous.

Back in the ’80s and ’90s, being a Southern California garage-rock band meant adhering to period-correct tones, gear, and aesthetics of the 1960s. Thankfully, the anachronism police of yesteryear have moved on, grown up, or vanished into their Etsy stores. And this leaves bands like L.A.’s Bonfire Beach a lot more creative freedom than the Vox-guitar-and-Beatle-boot-clad set of yesteryear.

You also have to commend Bonfire Beach for scaling down its lineup to a simple quartet. (What is it with all those Los Angelino garage/shoegaze hybrid bands having between seven to 10 people onstage just to create a simple sound, anyway?)

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