The Rickety Old Shack

Kyuss — Wretch

album cover

Probably the worst part about Wretch is the fact that it has to be compared to the rest of the band's discography. If Wretch were released by any other band in the mid-to-late 90s, it would be considered pretty good; nothing world-shattering, but a solid album of desert rock. Unfortunately for Wretch, it is a Kyuss album, and must be compared to the band's later work — notably, 3 of the stoner rock genre's most acclaimed albums. Still, for a bunch of teenagers cutting their teeth and garnering a reputation through legendary live shows, Wretch is far from a write-off.

The big problem with Wretch is, that unless you were one of a dozen people who bought this album back in 1991, it is almost certain that you Kyuss by way of Blues For The Red Sun, or Welcome To Sky Valley. While many elements of the trademark Kyuss sound are present on Wretch, the album definitely feels like a band finding their true identity as a musical unit. You can sort of tell that it's Josh Homme playing, but the tone isn't quite right and the riffs sound a little too traditional. The production quality is also somewhat lacking, acceptable sound for a low-key independent release, but a far cry from what the band achieved with Chris Goss in the studio.

John Garcia's one-of-a-kind voice is in fine form on this album, and the band acquit themselves well on all fronts. Wretch sounds like a bunch of friends who love Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and make that fact abundantly clear in their own material. Although "Katzenjammer" and "Son of a Bitch" stick out as the more memorable tracks on the album, and "Big Bikes" is a fun little number, as a whole Wretch lacks the cohesiveness displayed on later Kyuss releases. None of the band's hits came from this album, making it more of an artifact — and a collector's piece — than anything else. In the 2 decades I've owned the album, I've listened to it perhaps half-a-dozen times.

If you are just discovering the music of Kyuss, there is no real need to listen to Wretch. I would suggest skipping right to Blues For The Red Sun; this record is an interesting piece of musical history, but by no means essential listening. Kyuss were an amazing group of musicians, both prolific and short-lived as a unit, but their influence on fringe genres of rock is impossible to understated. Wretch offers a glimpse at the primordial beginnings of stoner rock pioneers; Kyuss never wrote released a bad song, even if these aren't their most memorable.

Summary

Almost 25 years after its release, Wretch holds up as a respectable rock album. Kyuss went on to become stoner rock legends, but it all started here. This record largely appeals to completists and historians at this point. Kyuss hit their stride on the next album, and never looked back — churning out 2 more top-quality albums before disbanding. After the break-up of Kyuss, each member went on to have prolific music careers and release a huge body of amazing music. Wretch is a fun album, and I can't say anything bad about it — but there's nothing exceptional about it either.

Album Information

Release date: September 23rd, 1991
Record label: Dali Records

John Garcia — vocals
Josh Homme — guitar
Nick Oliveri — bass
Chris Cockrell — bass (tracks 4, 6)
Brant Bjork — drums

Track Listing

  1. (Beginning Of What's About To Happen) Hwy 74
  2. Love Has Passed Me By
  3. Son of a Bitch
  4. Black Widow
  5. Katzenjammer
  6. Deadly Kiss
  7. The Law
  8. Isolation
  9. I'm Not
  10. Big Bikes
  11. Stage III

—by Derek

Published: July 7th, 2014