As an exercise in tedium, Shared Hallucinations, Pt.1: Sonic Salutations from the Venerable Vaults of Rancho De La Luna 1972-1984 is a smashing success. As music made for listening, not so much.
This first solo album by veteran rocker and producer Dave Catching has nothing to do with the years 1972-1984, nor do any of the lyrics—“baby, baby, baby” and “drive, drive, drive”—even approach the pretentious verbosity of the title.
The record is a collection of mostly up-tempo, loud, psychedelic rock songs with unbearably repetitive lyrics and four-power-chord structures. On “Candy,” featured vocalist Abby Travis intones: “Candy / sugar sweet / makes me cheat / over and over,” the full irony of which is that she sings it dozens of times in a row. “Over and over,” over and over. On “Pretty Bird,” Alain Johannes chants “singin’ singin’ singin’” for so many iterations that it stopped sounding like a word, and it took several listens to determine that he wasn’t saying “same same same.” This is—according to my most generous interpretation—a record that commits too fully to its theme of repetition and existential despair. To listen to it the whole way through is to feel the minutes of your life drain away in slow motion. Either it’s a meditation on meaninglessness, or it’s just meaningless. The songs aren’t terrible, but trying to appreciate them as a cohesive unit is futile.
There are a couple of standout tracks. “Pretty Bird,” despite the lyrics, is one of them. It’s driven by a menacing beat and slide guitar combo, and the repetition is so over the top that it attains the trance-like quality of shoegaze. The other is “Ghost,” featuring the hypnotic baritone Mark Lanegan and some ethereal harmonies that come as a balm after a half hour of pounding drums and chord slamming that leave no empty space in the mix. The production is busy, as if Dave told everyone in the band to play as loud as they could at the same time: all the noise of the Ramones with none of their subversive energy.
To be fair, I listened to Shared Hallucinations while sitting on the couch in my New York apartment. I did not blast it from the speakers of a Thunderbird, top-down, tearing through the Mojave desert with a joint in the ashtray. If I had, I might have experienced the sublime marriage of landscape and art that Dave surely had in mind. But to anyone with limited access to the desert and a less than sizable quantity of LSD on hand, I have some advice: listen to something else.