If you see this disc on sale anywhere, buy it and play it everywhere. Photo courtesy Fatso Jetson

I have long been fascinated by the Desert Rock scene emanating from the Palm Desert area in California. So many quality acts have come out of there, Queens OF The Stone Age (QOTSA) most notably. But there are more acts, Kyuss made a mark, The Dwarves, and some of the names read like a who’s who of music: Nick Oliveri, Blag Dhalia, Alain Johannes (who is currently on tour with P.J. Harvey), and everyone knows this band’s name thanks to global terrorism, Eagles Of Death Metal (if you live under a rock, this was the band that was targeted at the Bataclan massacre in November, 2015).

But there is one band I have not mentioned. Fatso Jetson (FJ). Out of all the bands that rose out of Palm Desert, FJ have to be the heaviest, most groove oriented of the lot. Yes, I know QOTSA are quite heavy on their new album, Villains but I can’t make any judgement on that, it’s not out yet, save for the few songs that have been leaked. I prefer the whole package…

It can be told that I got my hands on the latest disc from Fatso Jetson called Idle Hands. It would seem that all the time spent in the desert ingrained in these guys a rough, take no prisoners approach to song crafting. It comes through during the entire disc.

I know these guys aren’t household names. But they should be. Maybe it’s that familial connection that makes these guys so tight. The lead vocalist and guitarist is Mario Lalli, guitar is also played by Dino Von Lalli, bass is played by Larry Lalli, and drums by Tony Tornay with the addition of Mathias Shneeberger keyboards, guitars, bass and vocals. As it turns out my favorite lyrics on this album were in fact written by Sean Wheeler who also wrote words for “Portuguese Dream” and “The Vincent Letter” (later on in the album).

“Wire Wheels And Robots” kicks off the album with a grinding two string riff that is as grimy as my mechanic’s workbench. Immediately the mastering hits you in the face as clear, mixed high, mastered clean. The band immediately let’s you know they know what they are doing by being tight, even showcasing some quick stops during the intro riff, not full stops, just space for some air to get through. While the verse details a descriptive almost mirroring a Mad Max theme (if it happened in Egypt), the inflated chorus comes in and hangs for a while, at least twice as long as the conventional pop arrangement would have.

These guys ain’t pop…

The Royal Family of Desert Rock, Fatso Jetson. Photo courtesy of Fatso Jetson

That extra long chorus talks about dodging enemy fire, crossing divisions of territory, basically as though a war had broken out within and among the people’s everyday lives. (Hey! Kinda sounds like the US now!!!) But the end line reveals the mindset of our protagonist: “Get those wire wheels to shine”.

We go back to the intro riff for the next verse, talking of being mislead by others delusions as the vocal gets the psychedelic treatment with delays on words like “shine” from the last chorus and “sand” from the second verse. I didn’t get the psychedelic tip the first couple of times around listening to this. I was so blown away by how tight the band was. When I started to check out the lyrics, that’s when I realized how deep these guys are.

We go back to another inflated chorus. The second one is even bigger!

But we head off into a break, with the word “shine” echoing during the break which is heavy, powerful, and fairly prog if you ask this old coot. It wails away, picking up tempo and intensity until it just waits on a whole note (or two) and as things fall away, the start lead comes back in to pull it all together again.

Tourney’s drumming is powerful and exciting on this track (hell, throughout the entire album, if I still did a top ten list at the end of the year, Tourney would be high up on the list for inventiveness). The lyrics speak of a disarmament of some kind, with the echoing psychedelia attached to the last word of “dig that crazy sound” into a subdued solo and some louder synths added to flesh things out.

After that we revisit that prog break because it really rocks out and it’s a great point to end the song. They build the dynamic up to that hold note with some synth waveforms in the background until it fades down.

Chugging rhythms and lead guitar wails (and lead vocal wails) introduce “Portuguese Dream”. A reasonably staccato riff (for these guys anyway) maintains the musicality while the lead vocal is more akin to a beat poem, scattered fragmented and unreal images are conjured up in said dream.

We fall into a more punk-based break, with screams and whoops as vocal over it. The second verse is as equally nuts as the first. It’s kind of tough to decipher as Lalli’s (I better figure out a way to decipher one Lalli from another) vocals are mixed under the undulating music that accompanies the rants. This is one of those “you-have-to-hear-it-for-yourself” kind of songs. I can make out that he wants to protect his son. OK, I get that.

We go back to the punk break. A new riff is introduced to put us back at the verse and the last verse is musically interrupted by perhaps the content of the last few lines as they are made clear: ‘I wake up from the dream where I am in the cave with this girl. It’s black and red vibrating all around me. I run towards the light, BAM the door opens up, the baby screams, I look on the ceiling a shadow was closing there’s a spider above the crib, I’m freaking out now, what the fuck, as it closes and disappears. I’ve brought a demon into my home. Momma is gone it’s me, baby, my son. I look up, I call, I hear, Native American wisdom shadows spiders  protecting my son above the baby’s crib.’

If that ain’t some fucked up shit! I LOVE THESE GUYS!! Let’s face it, you have to be a creative son of a bitch to come up with a verse like that. That was the work of Sean Wheeler. Makes you wonder what the first two verses are like. Gotta find some lyrics for this one (yeah, like any site would print that…).

I don’t track hits off of albums. I really don’t care if an act has any hits. If I like it, then all the tracks are hits to me. But if there has to be a hit off of this disc, it would have to be “Royal Family”. It starts off with a fairly jaunty riff that is infectious in its simplicity. Two times just guitar, then the full band joins in heavy.

Heavy, that could be a keyword in this review.

The vocals are dreamy, again, tough to discern because of their mix level. The chorus is almost radio-made. The vocals double on the second pass of the chorus. Then back to our opening riff for verse two. I found some words so now I’ll be able to reference them when necessary. Again, I don’t like analyzing lyrics, but some of these are too good to pass up!! Having read the lyrics for this song, I know I can’t interpret it. I don’t live in the desert, I’ve never taken Peyote (bucket list!), and I don’t know what process Mario Lalli has when he composes lyrics. I haven’t walked in his shoes, so when he says (verse two):

‘This commitment to habitual disasters
migrant monarchs turning back to painted hills
toward Slab City to imperial diseases
Chance encounters with imperial unknowns’

…far be it from me to interpret this. Maybe I should quit while I’m behind…

The music is pretty much arranged around that opening riff and the chorus which again, sounds radio-ready.  The arrangement is really simple, verse-chorus-verse-chorus. Everything in between is smooth. A very tasty bass part underlines the chorus, twice. Then returning to the beginning riff with some squelch noise in there before a very Josh Homme sounding lead guitar comes in. For all I know, Homme could be using a Lalli sounding lead guitar.

We go back to the chorus, which has taken on an etherial feel. Until the end which has the opening riff, a slight lead and some synth noise at the close.

A distinctive series of notes starts off “Nervous Eater” but it takes a surprising 60’s psychedelic turn. As it turns out, I won’t be able to decipher these lyrics as the vocal line is again buried in the mix. But when we come to the more orderly chorus, you can make out that she’s a nervous eater. This has intriguing meanings to me as when FJ first started, Mario Lalli was (and I know no other way to reveal this) morbidly obese. It was only recently that Mario lost a lot of weight. So lyrically, this might be one of those songs with so much introspection that it best be left alone.

Mario Lalli pictured here during his Yawning Man days, was quite overweight. That weight began to impede Lalli’s ability to perform on stage. Lalli’s priorities come across when you see the healthy new, slim Lalli today! Photo via Youtube

The second verse has an interesting key change behind it. Slightly higher key. But the chorus has a thump behind it. They double up on it then go into a rather psychedelic solo break, very reminiscent of early Nazz (Todd Rundgren’s first group). The solo finally comes around, its sparse but very tasteful, and wavers into the reprise chorus. They repeat that chorus twice and go into a different psychedelic groove. These guys have chops to spare, right down to the made-for-stage ending.

“Seroquel” starts off with tranquil guitar notes, an almost Eno-esque sustain note leads in more guitars. We slide to a part change, and slide back and forth from key to key. Two minutes and fifteen or so seconds later, the full band comes in. More like the guitars get heavier and the drums come in.

At the three minute mark, the bass starts to explore within the framework. But other guitars that may or may not fit the framework also come in. Almost Fripp-ish. Then we settle back into just a couple of guitars and bass. Coming up on the five minute mark of the song, I don’t think any vocals are due, we return to the raucous chorus, and that gives way to more sustain notes and building of instruments and dynamic.

But at the six minute mark, we settle back down to end with guitars stopping one by one to a fade out.

Speaking of Fripp, this opening bass line to the title track “Idle Hands” sound very much like it could have been lifted from anywhere in the 1981-1984 era of King Crimson. A couple of handclaps before the full band joins in. I notice this is also another instrumental. Kinda ballsy putting two instrumentals side-by-side on a track listing.

It sounds like the keyboards were used to orchestrate as I hear some strings in there. Until they fall off for the solo guitar riff.

I am corrected by the lyrics coming in halfway through the cut. I couldn’t find these lyrics either. But hey, screw convention, it’s Fatso Jetson! After the next verse, a lead break of a sort (a synth lead) on which the band builds the dynamic. A basic melody is sneaking out, but it keeps getting quelled by the dynamic growing while fading out.

I hear more lead guitar notes to open “Last Of The Good Times” but the rest of the band is right there. The lyrics are asking me to do things I’d rather not. Like listen to my mother and father, hell, they’re dead. When they were alive I didn’t listen to them, so why would I start now?

They go into an instrumental break that will eventually lead to an ascension break to be followed by a catchy melody part riff. They repeat this until a stop to bring in verse one again. Then back to the a sort of fall back break, a couple of fluctuating riffs and back to the second verse.

Yeah we know, no more good times, only the pressure. Again, sounding like America under Trump.

They bash out another ascension break, into that glorious melody again. But this time, they add guitar after guitar as the riff plays on. This might have been single number two. They repeat a break riff four times and go into the main verse riff again, and switch to a descending break to a couple of long notes, the last held to end.

A 70’s rock kind of riff starts and the band kicks right in, solid, tight and heavy. “Then And Now” actually has an Eagles Of Death Metal feel at first, for the intro and the first verse. They build into a break that’s tough to describe. Alternating single notes back and forth with some lyrics buried under the mix.

We go into an instrumental break before the solo. Never thought I’d say this, but some of the solo was kinda buried as well. On this verse I think I hear the backing vocals of Olive Zoe Lalli (hell, what’s one more Lalli). Her voice sounds great on the outro line, it sounds like ‘Think just a little too much’. I could be wrong, most likely, I am.

Then it all breaks down for the guitar to carry the song over to another change break. These guys are keeping me on my toes with all the breaks, tempo changes, riff variations, again, really creative bunch of people here. Then an almost dissonant guitar comes in (I can’t love these guys any more).

Once the musical adventure is over, we go back to the chorus with all kinds of vocals repeating the line and fading away.

A dreary lead line starts off “The Vincent Letter”. The guitar bends in front of a smooth rhythm track, almost Queensian. This is an almost seven minute song, so I won’t pretend to know when or if the vocals come in. A lead line meanders around the track. We come to a change in chord pattern, to a chunky break with some dotted notes thrown in to demonstrate how tight they are.

I thought there was some more Sean Wheeler lyrics on this track, and I wouldn’t put it past FJ to bring them in late in the track. It seems to be their M.O.: Hook `em with killer riffs, then smash their face in with lyrics like Mr. C (Dale Cooper, played by Kyle McLaughlin) did on Twin Peaks. Broke a guy’s face in with one punch!

Four and a half minutes in, no lyrics. But a nice tasty guitar riff repeating, no lyrics. They build up to a new chord level in the last few repeats of the riff, and they take everything in a shiny new direction within the song. No words by Sean Wheeler. As Johnny Lydon once said ‘Do you ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” Probably a liner note mistake.

“48 Hours” starts off with a dirty dobro slide (it sounds like). After some noodling slide style, the band drops in and vocals take right over. The lyrics start off about finding out about a good friend dying. Well that’s depressing. That would explain the morose intro. But the chorus seems to use the 48 hours as a metaphor for the shortness of life.

The rhythm track is almost labored, but we get into the second chorus. The 48 hours bit. Nice distorted chords behind the chorus vocal, until a slide comes in and takes over everything as it turns into a barnburner solo. It’s about time Lalli let go with some expertise, pinch harmonics and all.

More chunky monkey guitars enter with multiple flourishes for the open of “Dream Homes”. A lone guitar note echoes over the rhythm track while it builds, so does the lead! Until it all blows up into a half time break, with a heavily chorused guitar on top. Almost as if the notes were backwards. They stop for the odd timing break and pick it right back up. At 2:20 the song breaks open with half closed high hats blaring away behind the machine-like guitars keeping steady rhythm while the lead meanders where it will. More counter melody guitars come in, astral in their approach. May as well end the disc with as much instrumentation as you can.

It simply riffs out to the end.

What can we take away from this? Fatso Jetson ROCKS! They are intelligent, inventive, challenging, intellectually stimulating, amusing and most of all, catchy. Their tunes are infectious. I used to tell people to run out and buy discs. I realize that’s silly now because no one does that anymore. You want the disc? You just download it or stream it from a source online and you are happy. Or at least you will be happy if you listen to Idle Hands by Fatso Jetson.

But think about it, if you go and BUY the Idle Hands CD you AND the band will be happy. A happy band puts out more music. Help the desert scene survive, buy Fatso Jetson products where ever you choose.


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