Cocaine Mustache is a hard partying, devil may care, free spirited rock and roll band bordering on metal and high on amps and distortion. The band endeavors to bring the listener a brand of music that is dirty and unrefined; party music for the sake of party music. Despite being a one-speed album, their effort “On the Mirror” is not a flank speed ahead affair. Rather, it is an album designed to plod forward at a sludgy pace, and makes up the difference in speed for size, appearing gigantic and impending over the horizon.
What surprised me most about “On the Mirror” is the sheer length of some of their pieces. For a band so dedicated to no-holds-barred rock and metal, the middle of the album is stacked with six minute songs that are testament to the band’s dedication to songwriting. The band can protest all they want, but a single six minute song, let alone three or four on an album, is not a happy accident; it speaks to the band taking their music seriously, despite all outward appearances.
To that end, the six minute slow jam epic “The Pledge,” whether through intention or not, is Cocaine Mustache’s tribute to Danzig. Infused with a four-beat blues core and the kind of soulful caterwauling that made Danzig’s solo career so memorable, “The Pledge” is the most complete song on this entire effort.
On the whole, “On the Mirror” is a crude mix of elements from Clutch, Fu Manchu and Crowned by Fire. It is an album borne of substance (or mettle, more appropriately,) and low on style. Yet, that remains the central crux of the whole thing. The album and the band cast off the shackles of perception and image in order to more fully embrace their down and dirty rock and roll nature.
With that said, the band’s crass disregard for the conventions of musical structure create a very loose environment for the listener. It may, in fact, be too loose for those fans who like their music to at least have a nominal ebb and flow. When all else fails for Cocaine Moustache, they’ll simply stop and start again at a new measure, which can be jarring. The patchwork nature of a song like “Cocaine Mustache,” varying between marching anthem and power-riffed dirge, requires a little bit of patience. The same goes for the on-again, off-again multi-segmented title track.
Not surprisingly, the album is at its best moments when at its most cohesive. Early tracks “Out of My Hands” and “Better Back in Time” are the fuel on which the entire experience burns, churning ahead with tall riffs and free-form solos. These cuts are more refined, but at the same time, more powerful and armed with a wicked sneering affect.
“On the Mirror” is a solid album that’s more concerned with pugilism and drinking than style and manner. There will always be a place in rock and roll and metal for such an effort, and it serves as the most recent reminder that the roots of the genre are steeped in delta blues and dirty flophouse bars. While incomplete and occasionally stuttering, Cocaine Mustache’s “On the Mirror” is a worthwhile achievement and a viable study for fans of the genre. Give it at least one chance.