Ripped by ChrisGoesRock
San Diego trio Joy made their debut on Tee Pee Records in 2014 with their second album overall, Under the Spell of…, a jammy, boogie-loaded outing that seemed to distill much of what has become identified with the boom in Californian heavy, particularly centered around San Diego in bands like Radio Moscow and Earthless. Joy‘s exclamatory third LP, Ride Along!, continues the thread, features contributions from members of those two outfits as well as labelmates Sacri Monti, and refines the band’s approach both in its making — guitarist/vocalist Zach Oakley also stepping up to produce at San Diego’s Audio Design Studios — and in style, Oakley, returning bassist Justin Hulson and new drummer Thomas DiBenedetto (also Sacri Monti) stripping away some of the expanse songs on their last outing offered in favor of a more straightforwardly structured approach, if one still presented through torrents of winding blues riffs, fervent psychedelic boogie and heavy-minded grooves.
The elements are familiar — guitar, bass, drums, vocals, a flash of organ on “Red, White and Blues” and elsewhere, acoustics on “Peyote Blues,” etc. — but it’s the energy Joy bring to their delivery and the turns their material makes that ultimately distinguish them from the crowded West Coast heavy sphere, and in accordance with being of their place and of the heavy ’10s pastiche, Ride Along! issues an invitation that’s hard to refuse as it careens through its 10-track/40-minute run with little care for what or whom it leaves in its dust.
Joy is an honest to goodness, blown-out blues band. They’re like a ZZ Top tribute band sucked through a time warp vacuum and then played at warp speed. And what do you know; the album’s centrepiece is a cover of “Certified Blues,” which Joy nail’s like Steven Tyler did his groupies. The solos run wild and literally scream to be set free.
Aside from this, Joy’s sound leans heavily on the fact that they constantly feel as if they’ll fishtail off the road, but always manage to regain control of the vehicle right before it happens. Indeed, whether it is their singer Zachary Oakely and his apparent mission from God to blow out his voice, or how the guitars flirt with the idea of diving headfirst into self-absorbed freak outs, or how the band is trying really, really hard to damage every speaker they get played through, drummer Thomas DiBenedetto underpins things, by pounding out a temperamental shuffle in an attempt to hold this whole shebang together.
So yeah, take Death Alley, mash it up with ZZ Top, and drop Joy like an atomic bomb in our modern age of upbeat, fuzzy blues rock and you’ve got an idea of what’s going on. Joy‘s fleet-footed turns, their catchy songs, their balance between tripped-out effects and air-tight performances assure that, once again, they live up to their name.
The sound of JOY has been described as “a spaced-out sonic groove-ride" and "outer reach freak out,” but that hyperbole alone doesn't do justice to the group’s measured mode of attack. JOY puts a premium on establishing both structure and dynamics, its kaleidoscopic flurry and full-throttle riffage is anchored by both subtle detail and surprising textural depth.
Record Collector says that JOY "take the blues about as far out as they can stretch 'em and they're far more psychedelic than a band like Blue Cheer ever was, even in their most lysergic moments," a claim that can be debated by those whom have seen JOY share the stage with acts such as Dead Meadow, Harsh Toke, Hot Lunch, Sacri Monti and at last year's well-documented west coast tour with psychedelic giants (and new labelmates) Earthless. Prepare to fall under the spell of JOY!
JOY are a band whose stylistic agenda is very pure: they live to re-create the sound of some reefer-addled dude's record collection in 1972. And between the buzzy guitar heroics, the deep bubbling bass, and the flanged drum tracks, JOY not only match their obvious inspirations, they occasionally beat them at their own game.
After drafting their statement of purpose with their 2014 debut, Under the Spell of JOY, the group is back and once again in powerful form. There isn't a massive degree of creative growth on JOY's second long-player, Ride Along!, but the band does sound notably tighter and hotter this time out. JOY's attack is no less heavy here, but the songs are a bit shorter and they get to the point with improved speed and precision.
Zachary Oakley's guitar is full of flash and thunder, but he also riffs with a decisive sense of wah-wah-infused purpose. And the feisty bark of his vocals fits the songs like a tube sock. Justin Hulson's animated bass patterns fill their space beautifully, and new drummer Thomas DiBenedetto can hit hard while staying limber, rolling and tumbling without losing the backbeat. JOY's performances on Ride Along! are busy, but busy with deliberate focus, sending their collective noise-making skills down the highway like a biker gang looking for some scary fun.
(They also had the good sense to bring along some like-minded pals for the trip. Parker Griggs of Radio Moscow and Brenden Deller of Sacri Monti join Oakley for additional guitar swagger, while Mario Rubalcaba from Earthless adds his percussion knowhow.) If Ride Along! isn't necessarily better than Under the Spell of JOY, at the very least it's just as good, and more ambitious too. JOY may prefer the sounds of the past to the present, but they also have enough skill to have a future in it. In short, Ride Along! rocks; listen loud and you'll like it.
◊ Zachary Oakley - Guitar, Vox
◊ Justin Hulson - Bass
◊ Thomas DiBenedetto - Drums
01. I’ve Been Down (Set Me Free)
03. Evil Woman
04. Going Down Slow
05. Certified Blues (ZZ Top)
06. Help Me
07. Red, White and Blues
08. Peyote Blues
09. Gypsy Mother’s Son
10. Ride Along!
1. Ride Alone
2. Ride Alone
3. Ride Alone