When I volunteered to review SMOKE ON THIS by REX BROWN, I had no idea what was in store for me. Sure, I dig PANTERA – I’m from Dallas, Texas and if you don’t like PANTERA, there’s a special place in Metal hell for you, or so I’m told. And I do like early stuff like “CEMETERY GATES” and “WALK”, and all the other songs that are played religiously here. But, not being as familiar with every single song REX BROWN plays in PANTERA or DOWN doesn’t mean I don’t think this record would be good – that has no bearing on what Rex is doing now, ya know? Fact is, what he’s doing now in REX BROWN is making him happy and he’s getting to heal himself from the past though the music on SMOKE ON THIS. What I find interesting about Rex is that with all the ups and downs he’s experienced both personally and professionally, he still manages to reinvent himself and this time he’s created some of his best work with SMOKE ON THIS.
Let’s get right into the review, shall we?
“LONE RIDER” – when this track broke this morning’s silence in the loft, I kinda jumped. I wasn’t expecting that right out of the gate – and why I don’t know. I’m not listening to some would be rock star’s LP – this is REX BROWN‘s LP, bitches!! If the rest of the record is going to be anything like this song in structure, mix, chord selection and uber sexy – this will probably move up to being one of my Top 10 favorite records of this year. Damnit, I should have waited to say that sentence in the closing – but I already typed it so I’m going to just leave that right here for you. You can either continue wit the review or go preorder “SMOKE ON THIS” here.
“CROSSING LINES” – what a sexy intro that just breathes that mix of metal and heavy rock that drew us in and molded our minds at the ripe ages of 11 or 12. It’s sludgy and a little raw but I dig it. It is smooth AF and totally oozes Rex. I love the tempo and the drum breaks.
“BURIED ALIVE” – totally not how I envisioned the song starting but it’s fresh and got a groove that kinda draws me to the late 70s. And then…shazam!! this crazy other side of the song bellows out from the roots of a sick AF riff that makes my liver hurt. BURIED ALIVE is so off from ordinary it is goddamn slick as oil on pavement! I dig this, I dig this, I dig this little piece of Red’s heart to mine. And isn’t that the truth? We have to drown in order to find ourselves. What a deal!!
“TRAIN SONG” – another catchy riff that with the drums is pure rock gold! As I’m listening and typing, I am (no joke) bouncing with the beat standing up at my table looking out at the bright AM, that is almost blinding my ability to type and I feel so bad ass to hear Rex come into himself, if you get my drift. I mean, no offense but this shit is good in ways that I haven’t heard from Rex in a while – if ever, if I’m honest, and I am. Check out the Official Video for TRAIN SONG:
“GET YOURSELF ALRIGHT” – a tripped out intro that makes me wanna listen to the Beatles when they were all f’ed up on hallucinogens, after this record. It’s genuine like a pair of Levi’s used to be – you know the ones…not to mention the lyrics can’t be further from the truth. Preach Rex! Literally, we all complain and moan about our woes and then do nothing to correct them at times. But it is so true,
“FAULT LINE” – a beautiful acoustic & electric intro combo starts FAULT LINE and again, it automatically makes me sway and type like I’m slow dancing with my man in the middle of nowhere. I have no idea what Rex is signing about, but it’s this kinda feeling that makes music so important to me. Bringing up little thoughts about life and where you’re at right at this moment…you know it’s a good song when it can pull that out of you on the first play.
“WHAT COMES AROUND” – never a truer part of a statement, “what comes around” – and dude, I have seen my fair share of the Come Arounds, you know? I love Rex’s voice in this track. While the tempo is slower, the song is still one of those that I feel will stick to your innards. The experience in Rex’s voice is real; he’s relaying a message and while it may not apply to everyone right at this moment – one day it will. And hopefully you’ll remember the cadence of this song slowly beating on your heart…because the Come Arounds don’t just happen to other people. They happen to everyone.
“GRACE” – first, I dig the bass line – it hustles all over this song. And while it reminds me of a song you’d hear on the beaches in So Cal coming out of the rock bar down the strip. I feel like the abundance of elements in this song – from the airy keys to the distant flute-like whistle honestly show that Rex doesn’t have to worry about whether or not he can “still write and record songs without worrying about any of the bullshit”. Trust me man, you can and you fucking did write some amazing and worthy music.
“SO INTO YOU” – come on now! Here’s a sexy groove that’s camouflaged in the guitars and while you might start to tap your foot, like I did, I quickly saw this song being one of those killer live songs that you throw up the horns to. Even if it’s not like straight up metal, it is heavy AF. Wait for the guitar solo towards the end – just when you think the song is over…whamo! There’s a little Rex that is playing right now on the little stage in my brain.
“BEST OF ME” – at the start, this is haunting and I immediately get goosebumps because even without hearing the lyrics I know it’s going to be a song that stays with me. Man, there are a few that’d I’d like to send this song to because while it may seem that some relationships end (not just romantic ones either) without a cause or reason – there are good things that happened in the middle of the beginning and the end, right? What I find haunting about this song though, is that it’s not always cool to give someone your best. That’s what resonates with me – the tempo of the song and the pulling of the guitar strings that tell a very somber and maybe painful story behind this song,
“ONE OF THESE DAYS” – I can’t believe I’m already at the end of the record. I listened straight through and only had to rewind once. This song blew my f’ing mind, y’all. “Are we ever gonna stop and make everything alright?” I see why this song is the last one. It’s the final word, after all this time and all that bullshit, one of these days, the sun will rise and it will be that day. It will be that day where you’ll either have to put it behind you or keep going with that monkey that has had 29 babies and they’re all adults now with babies of their own on your back. And who wants that? Christ, imagine how heavy and bulky that is to carry around. Man, I feel a few of these days are around a couple of my corners…and I think that makes me feel ok right about now.
So, if I were to rate this record on a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being the best a record can get, I’ll say the SMOKE ON THIS is sitting at a 9.50 for me. And that’s only because I’m just not going to give away 10 on any record, really. There is always room for growth and if REX BROWN does what he says he’s going to do, then get ready for him…this is just the tip of his toes testing the waters. Go ahead REX, dive right on in – you’re gonna do just fine!