The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz is the third release from Radio Moscow. The band, originally formed in 2003 by multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Parker Griggs, are signed to the well-respected roots rock label Alive Naturalsound Records. Discovered by none other than Black Keys’ frontman Dan Auerbach—a gentleman who steadfastly supports such vintage pursuits—Radio Moscow deliver tripped out, weed-fuelled guitar frenzies that contain a fair degree of Hendrix-worshipping riffs and plenty of steamrolling solos.
In an age where vintage jams are frequently dismissed off-hand as uninspired, or even worse, end up being produced by jaded hipsters, it’s heartening to discover a band that’s unashamedly retrogressive. Radio Moscow are aficionados of the golden age of dusty rock, and clearly proud to admit it. There’s no hint of any of that sad-sack ‘ironic’ nostalgia at work here; this is the real deal, delivered with due reverence and plenty of enthusiasm.
There’s no mistaking the band’s influences. Blue Cheer, Sir Lord Baltimore, Third Power, Dust, Bang and a whole swag of early ’70s proto-metal, garage-punk, heavy-psych and boogie bands are all represented on the new album. And there’s also a thread of soured hippy idealism as work too. A touch of the same murky spirit that took a hold of American heavy rock in the early ’70s is present, when the peace and love climate turned in on itself, and many a joyful psych band was infused with darker undercurrents.
I have to admit I’d never heard a note from these guys before I pressed play on this album—and that’s a serious deficiency on my part, because I’m a complete freak for proto-metal acts. Still, better late than never because the band tick all the boxes for that authentic old school Sabbath meets Robert Johnson vibe. I’m also curious why they’ve not made a bigger impression in NZ. We lap this stuff up—the Little Bushman have sold plenty of albums off the back of just this sort of psychedelic rock—and the Black Keys have been massively successful down here. The band’s lack of visibility certainly isn’t due to a dearth of muscle because Radio Moscow have authenticity and aptitude by the bucket load.
You only need to listen to the wah-wah and organ frenzy of opener “Little Eyes” to sense the genuine love for stripped down stoner rock. And unlike some other retro-inclined bands they don’t forsake the funkiness or the blues that was at the core of many of the greatest ’70s rock acts. “Speed Freak”, which sounds exactly like its title suggests, reeks of backwoods naughtiness, and “Deep Down Below” has a ragged blues harp that kicks things up to a whole other level. “Turtle Back Rider” has a distorting R&B riff that is funky as all hell, and “Creepin” brings in the soulful and the mournful blues.
Packed with voodoo drum patterns and a swaggering riff, the album’s best track, “Densaflorativa”, oozes the sort of Southern flavour Primal Scream were aiming for (and missing) in their own ’90s cock-rock years. But you could really pluck any song off the album and find the same murky spirit lurking within. Every tune is soaked in whiskey and weed atmospherics.
As great as the tunes are—and they are fantastically potent slices of primitive rock—the album’s most impressive feature is the fact that Parker Griggs was solely responsible for the majority of the instrumentation (along with bass support from Zack Anderson). It’s a pretty cool feat he’s pulled off, because the band has all the attributes of a powerhouse trio. Griggs has also captured the mood of the times superbly with a grubby, fuzzy production that speaks of analogue gear and tube amps—it’s exceptional really, you’d swear it was recorded in 1972.
The album starts off with a hiss and a roar and never really lets up. It reverberates with stacks of thunderous fundamental riffs that have been twisted into some hard-rockin’, good-times, prehistoric metal. Do yourself a big favour and seek this one out immediately. I’m off to invest in their first few albums; you best do the same, brother.