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The Warlocks

Surgery (Mute/Birdman)

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After years of piling druggy, blues-fuzz riffs atop an updated model of the Jesus & Mary Motorcycle Club, the Warlocks have finally gotten down to business on Surgery and made the album they've always been capable of. On "It's Just Like Surgery," Bobby Hecksher's voice creaks with passion as he belts out a classic love song about anesthesia, surrounded by a taut arrangement executed almost, well, surgically. The group carried nine members at its most bloated, but the seven now on hand add contrasting textures rather than redundant riff overdoses on pieces like the tense "Thursday's Radiation," the Warlocks' finest moment yet. Hecksher name-drops girl groups like the Shangri-Las and Ronettes in the press materials, and those sugary influences are borne out on "Evil Eyes Again" and "Angels in Heaven, Angels in Hell"; both songs offer a look back at an innocent era through the Warlocks' spaced-out lens. Thankfully, the huge drone-rock sound still packs a wallop -- only this time, it comes with some hellaciously good songs as well, making it one of the biggest can't-misses of the year.

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