published: 7 /
Inspired by own search for a fuzz pedal for his own band The Volunteered, Mark Rowland in 'Bandcamp Explorer' looks for the best fuzz-influenced bands on Bandcamp.
This month’s column is inspired by a personal mission. I’ve been looking for a new fuzz pedal in preparation for my band, The Volunteered, finally getting out and playing shows again. Listening to demo after demo of fuzz pedal made me really want to hear some gorgeously fuzzy music.
The fuzz pedal has its origins in the 1960s, made famous by Keith Richards’ guitar line on ‘Satisfaction’. By the 70s, there were several variations of fuzz pedal on the market, including the legendary Fuzz Face and Big Muff.
Fuzz pretty much defines the sound of Hendrix, 70s metal, grunge, doom and stoner rock. But it also turns up, to some extent, in every guitar-based genre, so who knows what the ‘fuzz’ tag on Bandcamp will throw up.
It turns out, all sorts. First, the kind of music I was hoping to find for this column: ultra-fuzzy, tuneful punk rock. No Fidelity are from Charleston in South Carolina, and have put out two great EPs this year. ‘NOFI’ is particularly great – just over seven minutes of gnarly fun.
Tropical Fuck Storm’s Braindrops is a brilliant find: a wonky arty gem with some great hooks and witty lyrics. The band is from Melbourne in Australia, and has a new album, Deep States, out this month (but it’s not tagged with fuzz, so technically I’m not recommending it).
The ‘fuzz’ tag also threw up the first release by Combat Naps, a jangly indie band from Madison, Wisconsin. It’s not really fuzzy in the pedal sense, but it is extremely good. Check out the absolutely lovely ‘It Could’ve Been So Nice’ to see what sort of thing you get from Combat Naps. Their entire discography is also available for an extremely reasonable $9.50.
Now let’s dig into something a little heavier. The ‘fuzz’ tag is dominated by stoner and doom metal bands of varying quality, and Froglord stands out from the bunch. The Bristol-based band have put out a lot of releases during the lockdown, the most recent being ‘The Mystic Toad’. As far as I can tell, the albums are basically a continuing concept, about a literal frog lord. Musically, it brings to mind bands like Melvins and Electric Wizard, and it offers the kind of stupid fun I want from my metal music.
A slightly bluesier take on that stoner doom metal sound is offered by Jack Harlan and the Dead Crows, also from Melbourne. ‘The Magnetic Ridge’ gives you psychedelic garage rock at times, dusty blues at others, all with a metal edge. Sometimes, it goes all-out metal, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It also offers up a concept – the ongoing tale of a drug-addicted outlaw in the West. I’d love to see a crossover in which he meets the Frog Lord.
Next, one of the most interesting finds in fuzz: the compilation ‘Wallahi Le Zein!’, which captures crackly performances of Mauritanian classical music played on fuzzy electric guitar, the 28 pieces on here capture the feeling of a community performance. The guitar playing is intricate, expressing melodies that would traditionally be played on a tiditnitt lute. The live capture of these performances gives them a fantastic energy – the shouts and claps of the audience can be heard among the hand drums and frenetic guitar playing. It has its own naturally psychedelic feel; it’s hard not to get caught up in its energy. Fans of math rock will probably be into this.
Finally, the super heavy garage space rock of Toulouse’s SLIFT. They also have an album out this year, ‘Levitation Sessions’, but the ‘fuzz’ tag presented me with 2017’s ‘Space Is The Key’, which is a really fun record drenched in oodles of lovely fuzz. If only I could find an equally lovely fuzz pedal for my own musical endeavours.