“The Coyote Who Spoke In Tongues”

By The Great Sun Jester

Released by Napalm Records, John Garcia’s "The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues" might surprise some who exclusively associate Garcia with the thunderous riffs and grooves characterizing much of his career since his days as a member of Kyuss. Garcia, however, rejects such neat and tidy categorizations. Long since freed from the ghost of Kyuss’ seminal desert/stoner rock heyday, Garcia has carved out a niche all his own as singer with far more range than those halcyon days ever hinted at and as an often powerful songwriter with a distinctive voice and the good sense to surround himself with top flight collaborators. The evocatively titled new album finds Garcia working in an acoustic vein offering recasting of his songs with Kyuss, tracks from his recent self titled solo album, and some new cuts for good measure. This is no holding action, no dodge to avoid the hard work of assembling a studio album of new and all-original material. Instead, this album is properly heard as a reaffirmation of his gifts and artistic direction honoring the past whilst clearing the decks for the future.

There is a smattering of additional instrumentation. A swell of keyboards opens “Kylie”, the album’s first cut, before transitioning into a hard-changing jangle. Garcia’s intensely emotive vocal tackles the track like it’s a first time performance of a song finished minutes before. The guitar playing has an increasingly atmospheric edge, augmented by some light atmospheric touches courtesy of artful percussion and sound effects, as the performance progresses. The album’s take on Kyuss’s iconic “Green Machine” is a remarkable achievement. Garcia’s recasting of the song, much like the opener, reinvents the tune in a much different light than its initial recording. This is largely due to the unobtrusive use of slide guitar, but Garcia’s hushed vocals strike just the right note and perfectly complete the muted arrangement. The best of the new material, “The Hollingsworth Session”, has a strong melodic attack and a moody disposition. The lyrical content is particularly solid – indignation and regret mix well here and Garcia puts over the song’s contrasting emotional waves with every bit of the dramatic weight they deserve.

The same moody disposition continues with “Gardenia”. The fire and fury of the original gives way to something much darker simmering with quiet intensity. Garcia’s talent for inhabiting these much more thoughtful landscapes, while sacrificing none of his gravitas and emotive glow, has few peers. “Argleben II” is another new composition and bears a clear connection to the song “Argleben” from his self-titled album, but ultimately stands on its own as a wholly unique and independent composition. The creativity going into a performance like this is considerable and Garcia has gathered like-minded musicians who help him pull it off with deceptively sophistication and more than a little soul. He defies expectations ending the album with an instrumental, but Garcia’s musical collaborators on this project make “Court Order” a highlight of the release thanks to the song’s glistening melodic grace and the intimacy of the recording. This is a performer and artist who follows his own Muse and the results are invariably rewarding. "The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues" reaffirms the past, pouring old wine into polished new bottles, but it wisely showcases new material illustrating that Garcia is far from finished.