Say what you will about the ephemerality of costumes or stage names or the combination of a bald head and a really pointy goatee, but nothing illustrates the snooze potential of stoner rock (or stoner metal or psych rock or drug rock or heavy metal or desert rock) like a band without any of those things. Take California's Nebula, whose third album, Atomic Ritual, boasts all the signifiers of the genre: caked-on guitar fuzz, sneered vocals that occasionally happen upon a melody, relentlessly chugging rhythms, a compressed production job from genre kingpin Chris Goss that makes everything sound like it's emanating from inside a cardboard bong. Oh, and songs about Lord knows what. Now, if I were high, or wanted to get high, or was going to some guy's house because he was probably high, chances are, um, high that Atomic Ritual would sound really great--Nebula combines all those formal elements in a way that each song unrolls predictably but pleasurably, like half-watching a favorite movie for the 67th time while you're making dinner. But since I'm not high and am actually listening intently to the music, those formal elements just recede into background noise, wallpaper I've passed on the way to the kitchen 67 times this week alone. It's up to you whether this is a problem. But a funny hat sure would help.
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Mikael Wood