ALBUM REVIEW: Death Valley Girls “Under The Spell Of Joy”

DEATH VALLEY GIRLS "Under The Spell Of Joy" cover art

DEATH VALLEY GIRLS “Under The Spell Of Joy” cover art

LA’s Death Valley Girls led by multi-instrumentalist Bonnie Bloomgarden and guitarist Larry Schemel are joined by a group of talented collaborators to release their very strong new album Under The Spell Of Joy.

Death Valley Girls have always been a band that could communicate on multiple levels. You can just press play and rock out, not a bad thing, or listen more deeply and go on a spiritual journey of self-discovery again, not a bad thing at all. In this day and age, a band that invites you to do both is a rare thing and harkens back to a different era of classic rock music where massive rock hooks and a message for the mind often went hand in hand.

Death Valley Girls intention to challenge listeners is apparent from the get-go as album opener “Hypnagogia” is a trippy “ode to the space between sleep & wakefulness” that immediately invites listeners to jump in at the deep end of the pool. With the song’s 13th Floor Elevators inspired guitar riff and some spacy sax weaving in and out of the mix courtesy of guest player Gabe Flores whose work on the entire album is exceptional. As she casts a spell over the musical proceedings Death Valley Girls’ ringleader Bloomgarden’s vocals seem more like chants and incantations rather than lyrics while the bottom end is held together nicely by the rock steady rhythm section of bassist Nicole Smith and Drummer Rikki Styx.

The very next track, “Hold My Hand” with its bouncy Velvet Underground inspired guitar hooks and swirling organ, is a perfect invitation from the band to take a breath and just rock out, its sing along verses and catchy chorus propelled by Bloomgarden’s Marc Bolan inspired vibrato vocal stylings.

It is this dichotomy in song styles that propels Death Valley Girls’ new album and makes it so interesting and a work worthy of repeat listens.

Whether doing space rock or garage rock Death Valley Girls music is always spiritual, and that is what gives rise to it being such a strong and compelling body of work. Whether you are sitting and listening intently on headphones or rocking out in your car Death Valley Girls invite you to dig inwardly deeper. This is music that unashamedly harkens to a past time when rock music was not afraid to challenge its audience, while also sounding contemporary, immediate, and just plain fun.