How dare Clint Roth, aka Big Jaw, write music like he has on Photophobia well into the 21st century. What kind of music am I referring to? You know, the kind with big, meaty guitar riffs, mammoth drum beats, and that thing called melody. It goes completely against current music standards. In particular, Music Standards 4.1 which states, “Music shall not be titillating, spine-tingling, or have any semblance of groove.” Has he not read the Brooklyn Music Accord of 2007?
Well, I suppose since we’re here we might as well discuss this slab of gutter pop and dirty glam rock called Photophobia. Fair warning though, once you hit play on this one you will uncontrollably tap your foot, play air guitar, and generally want to just rock out like a fool.
Back in the 90s there were a handful of bands that appeared on the music radar for a short time that made extremely catchy and heavy rock that you could play and not feel emasculated if you were caught listening to it. Bands like Dovetail Joint and Big Wreck made big, heavy, riff-laden music that was equal parts Electric Warrior, Physical Graffiti, and Are You Gonna Go My Way(and not in that order necessarily.) You can throw Stone Temple Pilots and Imperial Drag on this list as well. It’s that kind of rock that appealed to the stoners, rockers, preps, and greasers(basically the cast of The Outsiders and Dazed and Confused could all jam together here.) Big Jaw keeps that catchy metal flag flying high on Photophobia. “Walk Away” opens this album with some serious Queens of the Stone Age/Them Crooked Vultures strutting, Roth himself even having a Homme-esque snarl in his vocals. It’s a killer riff and killer tune. “Never Coming Home” has riffs and attitude for miles, and something the old timers used to call a “guitar solo”. There’s talk of drinking whiskey and forgetting names. This cat is lovelorn and is wearing his heart on his torn, bloodied sleeve. There’s a “Custard Pie” vibe in the groove and guitar riffage here as well. This is the kind of music you crank through your Pioneer speakers as you cruise in your 1974 Chevy Nova. Hell yeah. “This Is All There Is” stomps and rocks into your brain. This is the kind of track Lenny Kravitz used to write before he got concerned about the fashion runway and Oscar nominations. It’s got a classic glam crunch in the guitar that harkens back to Dean DeLeo, circa 1995.
Besides some serious riff ‘n roll going on, there’s some moments of weird and cool experimentation, like the short “Not Who I Will Be”, which has some backwards voices and what sounds like German being spoken, which leads into the deep and soulful “Calling Out”. This is yet another violation of current music standards, in particular Music Standards 5.3 which states “Artists shall not, in any circumstance, write any music remotely resembling heartfelt, earnest emotion without including ironic undertones.” Roth shows some serious studio prowess besides serious songwriting and arranging prowess throughout this record, and this song is a culmination of those strengths. “Light” ends this album on some serious vocal work and starry-eyed wonder.
So, if you want to be non-compliant with current music standards then give Photophobia a spin. You’ll find yourself sucked into the riff-heavy world of Clint Roth and Big Jaw. Just be prepared to not look back and to say the hell with those standards, Brooklyn be damned. You know what? Forget the standards. Hit play on Photophobia and turn it up as loud as it’ll go.
7.9 out of 10