Wizards of Ozone


Finding a decently burning rock and roll band in Southern California is much like searching for ozone-free sky in Pasadena, where every citizen’s share of auto smog blocks the sun’s UV as efficiently as a lead-lined bunker. Those who look tan for the Rose Parade either buy their rays at retail or flee to Santa Barbara; since ozone is invisible, you never know where to go to avoid it. In parallel, often what looks superficially to be a heavy, rolling rock band isn’t. As a consequence, there is a lot of fruitless exposure to notorious disappointments. Nettlesomely, the locals appear somewhat inured to this state of noncombustion.

Slojack, happily, do not suffer these handicaps. But I had to bump into them by accident at some dive in 1998 and then wait two years for a second record (their first was Naked, and it too was worth finding) while they struggled through indifference and band members coming and going. For Get There From Here, guitarist Andy Bartel (who played in a late-’70s band he doesn’t like mentioned, so I won’t; Christgau gave ’em a B-) immediately peels out over the listener’s face as the rhythm section shakes its way through a two-and-a-half-minute boogie. Then Slojack produce some even faster rock and roll—not thrash; the kind those born after ’69 would call “hardcore” but which isn’t, really, because Bartel throws nifty blues fills into the music, saving it from the foul disease of polka-tosis.

And Slojack do not reserve their best moves entirely for savagery. Singer Eddie Fritz wears his heart on his sleeve, but it’s a heart made of steel on “Someday the Rain,” a wistful and stunning piece of hard poetry about AIDS and loss. It could just as well be about anyone’s private heartbreak. Another song, “Rainbow Bridge,” should probably be sent to Maggie Bell, posthaste. For “Sad-Eyed Romeo,” Fritz serenades his subject to the accompaniment of a strolling accordionist. Cutting through the ozone, Get There From Here is an entirely more potent substance, pure nitroglycerin—useful for soothing the painful heart as well as for demolition.