If stoner rock and metal were a planet, surely I would be a sandworm – a great shai-hulud diving and roaming under the hot sands of the genre, my wormy body pleased by the vibrations of guitars and thumps of drums. I’m not an expert, but I love the gritty and melodic sound often associated with it. This led me to Dune Pilot and their new album Lucy. Hailing from the arid plains of, uh, Munich, Germany, the band seeks to bring listeners a sun-coated heavy rock extravaganza, a goal they readily succeed in, but not without some missteps.
Dune Pilot functions in such a way to make them sound like the background music for a high-octane motorcycle gang movie. When I listen to this, I think of black and chrome bikes vibrating through the arid lands of Death Valley, succulents peppering the landscapes, dust kicking up from the wind and air pressure from a fleet of choppers alike. If that sounds oddly specific, well, Lucy is oddly specific music, at least for me. In this regard, we get a great thesis for the album in “Loaded”. It’s a high-flying track that states ‘I’m loaded, I gotta get some action‘ literally since that’s the first line of the lyrics, and figuratively with its deliberate, rocking tone. This is obviously a tone that permeates the album like with “Postman” and its refrain of ‘Keep on ridin’, motherfucker‘.
Despite this recurring tone, I ended up finding Dune Pilot actually more compelling the slower they go. They flirt with doom occasionally, like with the bass-centric intro of “Criper” or the midsection of “Postman”. This typically isn’t how stoner rock appeals to a listener, but the genre is obviously close cousins to doom and sludge, so it’s not a surprise to see some influence bleed in. These points in the album allow you to head nod (or bang if you don’t skip neck day at the gym) and really ride the groove, a relaxing recess from the uptempo rock. Oh, and the Hammond organ of “The Willow”? More, please.
A cute little outtake is placed at the end of the album. The vocalist struggles to get a couple lines of lyrics out during recording. After the attempt, you hear ‘Naja gut, ein, zwei Textunsicherheiten‘ which basically means ‘alright, one or two uncertainties with the lyrics‘ (thanks to Inter for the translation). This is cool because it’s a short glimpse into the likable personality the band has, and it’s something I wish showed up a bit more in order to give the music some more substance. Which leads me to a good segue to talk about what irks me about the album.
For me, other bands have captured the grime of deserty, stoner rock better this year. See my take on both Fu Manchu and Marijannah‘s offerings earlier this year for reference. Even standing on its own, Lucy leaves a bit to be desired. Melodies range from serviceable to good. The majority of the vocals are fine, but ultimately don’t grip me much aside from the harmonies and parts with layering like on “Loaded”. Song structures are odd; a few tracks have a definitive end only for an unrelated, short instrumental part to creep up before the track’s time actually expires. These don’t cleanly bleed into the following tracks either, so it’s a solid blow against the album’s flow and cohesion. I admit, I do love the pensive, slow outro section of “I’m Your Man”, but its magic is still shattered when “Speak Up” kicks in with grimy rock groove. I can’t say I’d rather these sections be standalone interludes either because that would just bloat an album that already feels a little long.
This is a solid listen, especially for genre fans. It feels more like a love letter to a genre or specific sound than its own, unique thing and that’s okay! As a fellow fan, I can get down with that. Sure, design choices get in its way of greatness, but Lucy is a trip to the desert worth taking. Enjoy the grainy surf of fuzzy guitars and gruff vocals that push the vessel forth on the sand. Just mind the snags you may hit.
Notable Tracks: “Loaded”; “Postman”; “Criper”
FFO: Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Truckfighters