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This is the Californian stoner rock legends third album, but their second 'proper' one, and is the pinnacle of their achievements as a band, as well as the main reason for their lasting critical acclaim. Released in 1994, this album sees Kyuss at their most focused and talented, without the bloat of their previous "Blues for the Red Sun", or the inconsistency of their next and last full length release ... "and the Circus Leaves Town".
Apparently, the album wasn't supposed to be called "Welcome to Sky Valley", but became known as this, presumably because that is what is written on the front cover. I remember when I first heard this album not long after its release, naught but a lad, visiting my cousin in the holidays and him coming home from the shops with it, having heard good things, and me then laying next to the speakers on his plush blue carpet and having my mind completely blown. I was hooked from that moment on.
The album is 52 minutes long, and the 10 songs are divided into three movements. Some CDs have only these movements as selectable tracks, with three or four songs to each, but mine has all ten, as I think most do. The band is lead by Josh Homme on guitar, John Garcia with the vocals, the always-excellent Brant Bjork on drums and Scott Reeder thankfully replacing the useless Nick Oliveri on bass. Reeder is a great addition to the band and really improves on the overall sound, which is so much smoother than Blues for the Red Sun.
1. Gardenia - superb opening track, that superb riff and the drums come rolling in from a mile away, before Scott Reeder's bass bounces in for a nice long jam before John Garcia's classic smooth vocals join in. Wonderful.
2. Asteroid - instrumental. A chilled out jam that breaks into a crushingly heavy riff, then repeats, but even gentler and then even heavier.
3. Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop - strange title, good song. Catchy, bouncy and upbeat. Good drumming. Drawn out ending that leads into the second movement.
4. 100 Degrees - Fast paced, metal-lite verse, laid back chorus. Conjures images of the desert sands.
5. Space Cadet - Acoustic, Spanish-influenced, very chilled out. Brilliant song, nice change of pace.
6. Demon Cleaner - Stand out album track. Probably their most famous song. Just incredibly good bass riff, catchy chorus, best drumming this side of Tool. You'll be humming this for days/ever.
7. Odyssey - Pretty damn heavy song. Fantastic, goes 100mph all the way. More lyrics about the landscape
8. Conan Troutman - Another heavy intro, this settles into a metal-like chug. Relatively standard song, but has trippy whispered backing vocals that make the hair on the back of neck stand up.
9. N.O. - Apparently this is a cover of a song from Scott Reeder's previous band, but it sounds Kyuss all the way; it's funky, groovy and dirty. Good song.
10. Whitewater - this is the second-best song on the album, and the one with the best intro. It is a bit of an epic, the end goes on and on and, as they fade out, presumably the band just kept playing. Ah, what a riff, it's effortless, awesome stuff. The lyrics are soaring and, again, recall mountains and forests and take you away with them. I once listened to the beginning of this song on my walkman as my plane was shooting across the runway for takeoff. It was awesome.
There's a secret track a few seconds after the end of the last song, which is a barber-shop parody, which is fairly funny the first couple of times only. Completely ruins the mood but that's the point.
And that's it. I've seen this on sale for £5 and for that price you can't go wrong. This of course won't be to everyone's cup of tea, not by a long shot, but if you're into rock at all then it's worth at least checking this out. If I had a sixth star...
'Welcome to Sky Valley' (or to use its lesser-known correct title, 'Kyuss') is perhaps the finest work the American stoner rock outfit ever produced, and certainly one of the defining works of the genre. A little more energetic than its predecessor, this is still predominantly slow and contented music that never sounds so much lazy as under the influence, the tracklist being helpfully divided into three movements to aid comparison.
The first movement (tracks one to three) starts out with the catchy 'Gardenia' before descending into instrumental indulgence with the sometimes blaring, sometimes peaceful and entirely incoherent 'Asteroid,' one of the finest songs here if one of the less instantly accessible. 'Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop' is laid back before the second movement delivers some blaring guitars in '100 Degrees,' Eastern-tinged acoustic plucking in 'Space Cadet' and the throwback piece 'Demon Cleaner' which, like peanut butter, ranges between crunchy and smooth. The third and final movement is the most rocking and energetic of the album, roughly speaking, and this album should be on anyone's essential list of nineties rock.
3. Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop
4. 100 Degrees
5. Space Cadet
6. Demon Cleaner
8. Conan Troutman
Disc #1 Tracklisting
3 Supa Scoopa And Mighty Scoop
4 100 Degrees
5 Space Cadet
6 Demon Cleaner
8 Conan Troutman