Album review: DATURA4 – West Coast Highway Cosmic

DATURA4 – West Coast Highway Cosmic

Naturalsounds Records [Release date 17.04.20]

Feels like only five minutes since Datura4 anointed us with their blessed brand of down-under boogie and yet here they are already with their fourth album release, “West Coast Highway Cosmic”. As consistent as white lines flashing past in the middle of the road, Cosmic is once again loaded with snarly, stripped-back riffage and keys-heavy, bad-ass blues jams. Perhaps a bit less psychedelic than previous offerings, album number 4 from the 4 is continuing testament that band leader, Dom Mariani, has tunes flowing through his synapses for fun.

From the slow-building, Hammond-soaked title track and the excellent 7 minute jam-out, “Wolfman Woogie”, Cosmic is further evidence these lads know how not to let anything get in the way of a driving riff. With songs as accessible as a two-dollar hooker, the formula is fairly straightforward – pluck a dirty, toe-tapping three or four chord run out of thin air, then sprinkle it with lush keyboards and wholesome harp, add cheeky-chappie Aussie lyrics, rinse and repeat. Thing is – how “hard” is “simple” to get right, right ? Its hard as nails but Dom and his four-piece just have that knack. Stu Loasby (bass) and Warren Hall (drums) provide the perfect canvas backdrop over which Mariani and his ivory-tinkling cohort, Bob Patient, create and craft.

This album was actually completed prior to Datura4’s all-too-brief bounce through Europe late last year……caught them just outside of Marseilles where they romped roasting-hot through a great set, comprised mostly of tracks from the Blessed album.

The introduction of permanent keyboards into the band’s line-up brings depth – an obvious evolution of the Datura4 sound and works really well, complimentary rather than competitive to the band’s main thrust. Hours in a van together have certainly honed the band’s output of rubber-meeting-the-road grit and toil blues/rock.

Interestingly, “Rule My World” actually came before Blessed’s “Ooh Poo Pa Doo” but these two tracks are noticeably riff-related, the original all-guitar and harp version having been re-worked with Patient’s keyboards. In fact, Rule would morph into Poo (so-to-speak) in the live set but now makes it’s deserved album debut, re-mixed to great effect.

“Mother Medusa” channels some Phenomenon/Lights Out-era UFO whilst the band skulks and broods on the moody, slidey “You’re The Only One”. “Give” has a slightly more Laurel Canyon-infused psychedelic groove to it and “Get Out” is a cool, up-tempo little rocker (auto-corrected to “rocket”…..yeah, okay, let’s go with that as an apt description too). “You Be The Fool” is a muddy, slow, 12-bar harp-infused blues – John Lee must be wondering how the riff to this one got away.

“Evil People Pt 1”, a dreamy, mesmeric piece has been given a new lease of life as a meandering blues groove, lovingly re-worked as it is with Patient’s keys sounding like the Lord of Purple himself. Dedicated Datura followers will realize that “Evil Part 2” from Blessed is now effectively the prequel to “Evil Part 1” on Cosmic – ya with me ? You have the feeling the band could play around with this one as a lush album closer/live offering and slightly re-purpose it each time….trumpets and triangles next?

A new Datura 4 album has really become a risk-free proposition – you’re safe and comfy in the expectation of what you’re gonna get but excited by a tasty little twist of evolution. Overall, West Coast Highway Cosmic may not quite reach the dizzying heights of individual song-writing quality which the Boogie album nailed down so impressively, but that would be churlish criticism. Datura4 are on a first-rate, four-album roll here – blessed with Dom’s honest, earthy DNA and with a little “patience” thrown in to broaden their sound. Cosmic, indeed….stellar, even. ****

Review by Mark “Mad Dog” Shaw

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