“Lush and loud, but down to earth.” This is how Lemmy Gurtowsky describes his band, California X – the sludge-boppers who have spent the best part of 2013 tearing down “guitar music is dead” naysayers, one by black-hearted one.
It all started with ‘Pond Rot‘ – a juggernaut which Gurtowsky tells us that he wrote while on vacation in The Cape. “I felt alienated from my family,” he says of the trip. Hardly surprising coming from a front man from Amherst, right? Wrong. When did you last hear J Mascis‘ pen find solace in Animorphs - yeah, that book series about those weird ass kids who could morph into any animal that they placed their hands on? Because that is what this good shit is all about: [LISTEN]
Would you, would you,
Live down in the murky ground
Turning the fishy deep
Where it’s dark and gloom
Feels and fens growing in my skin
I want a pond to rot in
Although he says that he “certainly likes some lyrics,” Gurtowsky is no socially awkward Dino-in-the-making. He delights in telling us that California X’s glowing debut dissects “the meaning of friendship” and marvels at “the flux of life.” At this point in the interview, Gurtowsky breaks the entire album down, track-by-track. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if he is trolling us. But, on the whole, the songwriter’s bizarre anecdotes appear to come from a genuine – and extraordinarily charming – place:
- ‘Sucker‘ is about a friend who lost their job and never found one again.
- ‘Curse of the Nightmare‘ is about my friend Devin. He will soon be married.
- ‘Pond Rot‘ is about many things. One thing that it is about is pollution.
- ‘Hot Hed‘ is about when I have one beer and the feelings I have.
- ‘Spider Song‘ is about the time I accidentally ate a spider.
- ‘Lemmy’s World‘ is about how my name is actually Lemmy (Lemuel).
- ‘Spirit World‘ is about those who have passed on. It is also about my favorite movie.
- ‘Mummy‘ is about a friend who was trapped in a cast for quite a long time.
Despite the analogous guitar lashings, California X is not the work of a “fanboy” who devoted his adolescence to the study of You’re Living All Over Me. Rather, Gurtowsky cites veteran pop-smiths like Nina Simone, Marty Robbins and Debbie Harry among his influences. Telling, then, that beneath those thick blankets of delicious sludge, a hook is nurtured, a melody is refined and – above all – a friendship is bound. But, about that spider: