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It’s time for CLONE WARS. Which players would be selected first in an all-clone, all-absurd draft ?
The plan...? Why, clones of course. The crack team of NBA scientists have been using those drug tests and DNA for a purpose: to replicate the greatest players in league history.
This summer represents a perfect opportunity to unleash this army of clones upon the world. The coronavirus has us all cooped up and bored, and in need of excitement like this. Moreover, this year's actual draft class is weaker than usual, giving us a perfect excuse to allow the clones to declare their eligibility.
--- Active players will NOT be eligible to participate in the clone draft. That's unfortunate news for some of the current greats (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, etc). But alas, we have a max salary in this league and we can't have players drawing two separate checks.
--- In real life, it's always a good idea to go "best player available" in a draft. That's doubly true when you have a chance to snag an all-time great like these teams will. That said, I don't want this exercise to devolve into a simple "best players ever!" ranking, because it's not as fun. To combat that, we're going to factor in team fit heavily as well.
--- We're also going to do some era adjustments to factor in the natural evolution of the game, training, and sports science. Sure, if you randomly threw in an old-timer like George Mikan into the NBA in 2020, he may have trouble keeping up. To combat that problem, we want to consider a player's abilities within the context of their era. If you were one of the best shooters in your day, you'd be one of the best shooters today -- if you were one of the fastest players in your era, you'd be one of the fastest players now, etc. In a way, it's like an "inflation"-adjusted talent.
-- That said, we're still treating this as modern basketball with modern sensibilities. Math isn't going anywhere; teams are still going to prioritize three-point shooting, pace, and positionless basketball. Given that, some of the famous centers from the past may see their stock decline, while wings will get a natural boost.
With all that out of the way, let's get to it !
THE CLONE WARS DRAFT(1) GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
In real life, fans have been grumbling about the Golden State Warriors -- recent champions -- getting a chance to land the top pick in the draft. Well, that's about to get even more unfair as the Warriors earn the rights to snag SG Michael Jordan.
In theory, you can quibble about the "fit" here because Klay Thompson also plays SG. However, both Jordan and Thompson are big guards, perfectly capable of defending small forwards. And offensively, the team would be lethal. With Steph Curry and Klay Thompson provided historically good shooting and spacing, opponents couldn't pack the paint and stop MJ from driving to the basket. This team would be ridiculously good, and contend for a Clone War title right away.
The Cleveland Cavaliers petitioned the league office to waive Rule A and allow them to draft LeBron James and bring him back to Cleveland for the third time. Not only is he a local hero, he's a perfect roster fit for them as well. They have a few guards and a few bigs, but desperately need help on the wing.
Unfortunately, their request was denied. Rules are rules. Any time you're doing a draft of clones and time machines, you have to take it seriously.
The Cavs will have to lick their wounds and go with the next best thing at the position in SF Larry Bird. An underrated defender, Bird could do virtually everything: shoot (obviously), pass, rebound, etc. Health permitting, he'd thrive in this era. Better yet, he had the winning mentality to clean up the locker room and hold the young kids accountable. They may have rebelled against John Beilein, but they'd have to listen to Larry Legend.
We promised to factor in roster fit in these picks, which makes our next selection difficult as well. Based on pure talent, the board is loaded with centers -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, etc. That said, would those classic big men fit well with current star Karl-Anthony Towns? Towns has problems keeping up on defense already, so playing two bigs together may compound that issue.
So if we're committed to Towns, how are we going to get the most out of him? The guy's an offensive savant whose shooting is historically great for a center. At the same time, he always seems to leave you wanting more, especially in regards to defensive effort and intensity. Tom Thibodeau didn't get through to him... Jimmy Butler didn't get through to him... but maybe SG Kobe Bryant could.
Mentioning Kobe Bryant's passing is a dark reminder in a post that's supposed to be lighthearted and fun; it's still a shock to think about, even months later. Whether you liked his game or his personality or not, you have to respect the career of a player who committed and achieved so much. He had the type of Mamba Mentality that's been lacking in Minnesota lately. You'd also expect that Bryant would have the intelligence and drive to adjust his game in an analytics-driven era.
Note: Kevin Garnett was also a consideration for many of these same reasons, but even his clone refused to play for owner Glen Taylor.
In real life, Atlanta GM Travis Schlenk is also trying to add defensive talent and intensity to his club. That said, he simply can't pass up the overwhelming talent of C Kareem Abdul-Jabbar right now.
Abdul-Jabbar gets a bad rap for his defense (partly due to Airplane!, honestly) but he's better on that end than the reputation suggests. And offensively, we're talking about one of the most gifted players of all time. Abdul-Jabbar's ability to dominate inside would pair well with a shooter like Trae Young. Better yet, his longevity and durability would make him one arguably the most valuable asset in this entire draft.
With a fairly barren roster, the Detroit Pistons can select from across the board. The centers are tempting, but the team will go with PG Magic Johnson instead.
Current PG Derrick Rose is playing better than expected, but he's a short-term solution. Magic Johnson could come in and lock down the position for the next 10+ years. Better yet, he would provide the charisma and star power needed for a team that seems to be a league afterthought at the moment. And even better still, he's a local kid from Michigan.
Meanwhile, we've gotten word that Isiah Thomas has just thrown a fit in the green room. He's furious that his home franchise would pass him up for another point guard. Alas, Johnson is more more talented, more decorated, and simply too damn good to pass up. He'd be a steal as late as # 5.
Like the Detroit Pistons, the New York Knicks are still looking for an identity on the court, and still looking for a signature star to plaster on the marquee. There are a boatload of them to choose from here, including some with charisma and star power like Julius Erving and Shaquille O'Neal.
However, the Knicks are going to take the player with arguably the most athletic upside in C Wilt Chamberlain. He's the one old player who wouldn't need any sort of time-adjusted athletic boost. He's a 7-foot tall track star who would be impossible to guard in today's NBA.
Of course, there's some risk to the pick. Right now, the Knicks don't have the type of stable franchise that would keep Chamberlain locked in. Moreover, New York City may be quite a distraction for the big man. Would he be more interested in breaking his record of 100 points in a game? Or 20,000 ladies in his lifetime?
Here are # 7, the Chicago Bulls may be tempted to go with a local legend like Scottie Pippen. He's a great fit for this particular roster given his defense and playmaking at the wing. And previously, we did factor in "fit" heavily for a team like Minnesota.
Still, I don't think the Bulls are as attached to their bigs down as the Timberwolves are. Young kids Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen have flashed talent, but not enough to justify passing on a stud like PF Tim Duncan (who would play "center" for them.)
Steady as a rock, Duncan adds the defensive identity and winning mentality of someone like Scottie Pippen, and can also function as a focal point and lead option on offense as well. For that reason, the team selected him over Pippen and Bill Russell, another all-time great center who is more limited on that end.
Owner Michael Jordan can't trade himself in this exercise, so he'll have to settle for the next best thing on the board in SF Julius Erving.
In many ways, Dr. J set the stage for Jordan himself in regards to his breathtaking athleticism and scoring prowess. Erving's NBA achievements may not rank up there with the top 10 greats, but that's only because his prime came in the ABA before that. There, he won multiple titles, and averaged over 30+ points per game. He'll be reborn here as the face of Charlotte, a franchise that needs a star as much as any team in the league.
The Washington Wizards will be getting John Wall back next season, hopefully at near 100% again. Along with Bradley Beal, the team should have one of the better backcourts in the league.
Their problem...? Everything else. The frontcourt is pretty thin right now, and especially vulnerable on the defensive end. As a result, they'd naturally consider defensive stalwarts like Bill Russell and Hakeem Olajuwon.
That said, I like the idea of C Shaquille O'Neal even more. In his prime, O'Neal was also an impact defender. And certainly, the guy was an absolute beast and dominant force on offense. In his younger days, he had the speed to run and game with John Wall in transition. And in the halfcourt, his post game would pair well with Bradley Beal.
With Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton in tow, the Phoenix Suns feel like they have two building blocks for the future. The goal would be adding another star with the defense and mentality to make them "winners."
With that in mind, Scottie Pippen is once again a key consideration. Still, we have to brush off our "Last Dance" fever and go with another forward in PF Kevin Garnett instead. Like Pippen, Garnett may not have been the most comfortable as the leading scoring option. However, his defensive impact is nearly unrivaled. Moreover, KG has the type of dogged determination and intensity that these young pups need to take their games to the next level.
Coach Gregg Popovich and assistant coach Tim Duncan are disappointed that clone Tim Duncan is off the board, but they'll happily snatch up a similar player in C Bill Russell instead.
As mentioned, Russell's limited offensive game caused him to slide a little in our draft, but he still has the defensive impact to be a stellar NBA player. Off the court, he may have even more value. Russell is the consummate team player and the ultimate winner, qualities that have been integral for the Spurs culture. Quietly, their defense has been in decline (ranking just 25th this year) lately, so Russell would be critical for re-establishing their winning ways.
The Sacramento Kings don't appear to view former # 2 pick Marvin Bagley III as a true center, so they'll find another one in C Hakeem Olajuwon.
GM Vlade Divac played against Olajuwon, so he should know how amazing "the Dream" was on both ends of the court. Defensively, he can be an intimidator and shot blocker. Offensively, his moves are legendary. He also had the foot speed to run and gun with a modern team like Sacramento. It's a near perfect fit across the board, and one that may vault the Kings into contender status.
Determining the New Orleans Pelicans' pick may depend on how you view Zion Williamson and his best position going forward. If you treat him as a true power forward, then perhaps a true center like David Robinson would work here. Together, you'd have a dominant frontcourt.
That said, I personally think Williamson has proven to be best as a smallball center so far. At the very least, you'd want him to play a good amount at the 5. Given that, we're going to go for a perimeter player instead.
That pick is going to be PG/SG Oscar Robertson. Robertson is one of the best talented players of all time, and has the stat lines to back it up. Not only did he average a triple double for an entire season, he averaged 30-10-10. The knock on Robertson has always been his arrogant attitude and possible selfishness. Fortunately, Zion Williamson is one of the least selfish stars in the game. He has a great attitude, and never seems to crave the spotlight. Your hope is that these two would bring out the best in each other, and provide a deadly 1-2 punch.
In the Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum era, the Portland Trail Blazers have had a good amount of success. That said, they always seem to have the same Achilles heels: their defense, and their play on the wing. The forward position may have been weaker than ever this season, requiring Carmelo Anthony to play 32+ minutes a game.
Help is on the way in the form of SF Scottie Pippen (a former Blazer, actually.) We've debated Pippen before, but this may be his best fit yet. Defensively, he can be a movable chess piece for the team and be a "stopper" against the hot hand. Pippen's scoring ability was somewhat limited, but that shouldn't be a big deal on a team with two great shooters in the backcourt.
The Orlando Magic prioritize length and defense, highlighted by a future Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Jonathan Isaac. That said, their roster construction lends itself to some struggles on the offensive end. In fact, they've been in the bottom 10 offensively for the last EIGHT years.
In order to remedy that, the Magic will select SF Elgin Baylor. Baylor's career came from 1958-1972, so he's the oldest player on our list and potentially not as well known. However, Baylor could absolutely light it up. He averaged 30+ points in college, and averaged 34+ points in the NBA for three straight seasons. He'd supply a nice yin and yang to Isaac and the young core here.
Technically Brooklyn would send this pick to Minnesota, but we wanted to scratch those deals and give every team a chance to participate.
The Nets are happy with that decision, because they may be only a clone away from contention. With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant (hopefully) back near full strength next season, the Brooklyn Nets should be in the title mix.
Given their window, there's an argument to the idea of drafting a "win now" player like Bill Walton. Walton's pro career was shortened by foot injuries, but his prime ranks up there with the best of them; the big man had an all-around game and stellar passing ability.
That said, drafting someone with a short career doesn't seem as prudent when there are plenty of bigs on the board like David Robinson. The Admiral would come in as an upgrade on young Jarrett Allen, adding a third option on offense and a true anchor on defense. Moreover, Robinson has no ego to speak of, and would easily blend in with personalities like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
The young Memphis Grizzlies are ahead of schedule on their rebuild with a near .500 record (32-33), and will look to continue to build around Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
Looking forward, you'd have to debate the best player on the board, as well as the best use of Jaren Jackson Jr. Personally, I've always envisioned him best as a stretch "five". Given that, I'd like to find a complementary power forward with athleticism and aggressiveness, particularly on the glass (which isn't Jackson's strong suit). Undersized whirling dervish PF Charles Barkley fits that bill.
Team legend Dirk Nowitzki has officially retired, which makes his clone eligible to return to the franchise. It's very tempting for many reasons. That said, we're going to eschew the obvious fit and go with the "Logo", SG Jerry West instead.
Primarily listed as a shooting guard, West's size (at 6'2") may fit best as a point guard in the modern NBA. And here in Dallas, he can slot right in there and share ballhandling responsibilities with point-forward Luka Doncic. West would represent a heck of a dynamic duo with Luka; the legend averaged over 31+ points three times, and had career highs of 7.9 rebounds and 9.7 assists in separate seasons.
The Indiana Pacers have a solid team all around, with not many holes in the starting lineup. However, to take that next step up, they're going to have to improve the upside of their offense. So far this season, they rank 18th in that category. Three-point shooting isn't their strong suit either.
To help with that, we're going to add PG Steve Nash. Nash may not be as legendary as others on the board (despite being a two-time MVP), but he fits this era like a glove. Current PG Malcolm Brogdon may have hit 50-40-90 last season, but Nash nearly did that for his entire career (with 49-43-90.) If he forced himself to shoot more often, he could be even more dominant than he had been with the Suns.
Meanwhile, Pacers legend Reggie Miller (not a shabby shooter himself) is scowling and pointing to the fact that the team has quite a lot of money committed to a point guard in Brogdon already.
Philadelphia is another team that's going to prioritize shooting. Ben Simmons is naturally limited in that regard, and backcourt mate Josh Richardson hasn't lived up to the billing so far (shooting only 32.7% from three on the season.)
We wouldn't have to worry about that shooting inconsistency with our pick, SG Ray Allen. The sharpshooter hit 40% of his threes over the course of his career. And while younger fans may remember him for simply being a spot-up spacer, he was much more dynamic in his youth with Milwaukee and Seattle. He could create his own shot just fine, illustrated by eight straight seasons with 20+ points per game (peaking with 26.4 in 2005-06.)
Once again, Reggie Miller scowls. And Spike Lee laughs.
Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets are burning down the church of basketball and sparking a revolution in the sport. Screw big men -- bring on the 3s!
But wait, perhaps there's a way to have both. PF/C Bob Pettit, known as the "Bombardier from Baton Rogue," could be the ultimate Morey-ball big. At 6'9", Pettit may have been undersized for a big man in the 50s and 60s, but he's represent a size and rebounding upgrade for the Rockets of today. Better yet, he also fits their playing style. Although he played prior to the three-point line, Pettit was known for launching from deep. He also made a point to get to the free-throw line, averaging over 10 attempts a game. Sounds like Morey's cup of tea.
It's difficult to pinpoint an exact fit with the Oklahoma City Thunder, because we don't really know the direction their franchise is headed in. Do they keep this surprisingly good core together and keep trying to make the playoffs? Or do they blow it up and go into full rebuild mold?
In either scenario, PF Karl Malone would be a good fit. A rugged scoring machine, Malone would add another weapon to the team right now. And if the goal is the future, then the Mailman would deliver on that front as well. His durability and longevity was remarkable: not only did he play 19 seasons, he played 80+ games in 17 of them. In fact, you can argue that he should be even an higher pick in this draft; perhaps he got dinged by the slimy off-the-court issues that reddit knows all too well.
When you're drafting clones, you can't get emotional. You can't get sentimental. But F it, Pat Riley is drafting SG Dwyane Wade anyway.
The Heat probably need a pure point guard more (John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, and Jason Kidd are still on the board), but you can make a legitimate argument for Wade as well. His explosive ability on offense and defense rivals some of the top players in history. And in terms of his personality and culture, he's already proven to be an excellent fit for this franchise.
Utah is not going to have their heartstrings pulled in the same way and go for John Stockton. As disappointing as Mike Conley may have been so far this year, he's still a quality vet, and still locked into a long-term contract.
Instead, Utah will turn their attention to another shooter to spark their offense in PF Dirk Nowitzki. They're fortunate that the German is still on the board. He's a near perfect fit next to Rudy Gobert, whose long arms will help cover for Nowitzki on defense. And offensively, Nowitzki and Bogdan Bogdanovic will help make their spacing problems of the past a distant memory.
The Denver Nuggets would be tempted by some of the superstar point guards on the board, but ultimately need more help on the wing. Gary Harris and Will Barton haven't been consistent enough to keep their jobs when you have players like George Gervin, Reggie Miller, and Tracy McGrady on the board.
Among those wings available, we're going with SG Clyde Drexler. George Gervin may have been a better scorer, but Drexler was a more attentive defender and a better ball mover (who averaged 6+ assists in his prime.) He'd fit well with the identity of the team, and give them a jolt in terms of size and athleticism on the perimeter.
As a modern team that prioritizes wing play, the Boston Celtics don't feel the need to have a superstar center in the paint. That said, it couldn't hurt.
To that end, they're going to select C Moses Malone. The ferocious big man may be one of the biggest steals on the board so far. He's a three-time MVP who led the league in rebounding on six different occasions. He tends to get a little lost in the mix considering all the great centers in NBA history, but his prime was among the best of any of them.
The L.A. Clippers don't have many weaknesses, but there are a few softer spots to consider. They could go for a natural facilitator and true field general like John Stockton or Isiah Thomas, or they can go with a true big down low.
Doc Rivers and company will lean to the latter, and select C Patrick Ewing (his former teammate with the Knciks.) While a star center and shot blocker may not feel as necessary nowadays, that may change when an army of clones enter the league. Ewing's defensive ability will help seal a wall inside along with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and keep the Clippers in title contention.
No DeMar DeRozan? No Kawhi Leonard? No problem. Nick Nurse and the Raptors continue to chug along, now with a 46-18 record.
Still, the wing spot feels like the softest area of the team. The offense has quietly sunk down to mid-pack without a go-to star at SG or SF. To that end, the "Iceman" SF George Gervin will come in and provide that punch. As mentioned before, he's one of the best pure scorers in NBA history, peaking with 33.1 points in 1978-79. And as a fun (and irrelevant) bonus, Gervin is from Detroit, which is closer to Toronto than it is to most U.S. cities. Perhaps he'd embrace becoming the face of the franchise as they transition to a new era ahead.
Forget the new era ahead. LeBron James wants to win a title. Right. Now. He has some of the pieces in place to do that, with Anthony Davis prowling around as one of the most talented big men in NBA history in his own right.
To actual win it all -- in this brave new clone world -- the Lakers may need some help. They could use a third star -- they could use a secondary playmaker -- they could use an upgrade at point guard.
Current assistant coach Jason Kidd points out that there's a clone who may fit that bill in PG Jason Kidd. He clearly has LeBron James' respect, and for good reason. Kidd was a dogged defender, a superior passer, and improved his shooting to be a viable threat from deep. While playing with James may take the ball out of his hands more than he'd like, Kidd has some experience serving as a role player as well. In fact, he helped Dirk Nowitzki and the cagy Mavericks beat LeBron in the Finals before.
Reigning MVP Giannis Antetounkoumpo always credits Coach Jason Kidd for helping him develop, so he may be disappointed that clone Kidd is off the board. Presumably, new coach Mike Budenholzer is not. He doesn't need a power battle on his hands.
Roster wise, Coach Bud should feel good about the state of his team as well. His Bucks have a very strong roster that fits like a glove around his star. That said, there are some lingering questions about whether or not the supporting cast (namely Eric Bledsoe) can rise to the occasion in the playoffs. To remedy that, we're going to select a proven playoff performer and champion in PG Isiah Thomas. Thomas will come in with a chip on his shoulder after being passed up for so long, and will be motivated to help this team get over the top. It's been a rocky month for Thomas in terms of P.R., so he should be looking forward to getting back on the court and re-asserting himself.
Our draft will end will several superstars left in the green room. The most notable of which would be PG John Stockton, one of the best point guards ever and an iron horse who played 19 seasons. Honestly that's nothing against Stockton; I just couldn't find the right fit for him and some others who would be a "top 30" player if we did this by pure rankings.
Here are some of the other options that you can push for instead of the current picks:
PG: John Stockton, Walt Frazier, Nate Archibald, Gary Payton
SG: Sam Jones, Allen Iverson, Reggie Miller, Tracy McGrady, Pete Maravich
SF: John Havlicek, Paul Pierce, Dominique Wilkins, James Worthy, Adrian Dantley, Grant Hill
PF: Dolph Schayes, Kevin McHale, Elvin Hayes, Dennis Rodman, Jerry Lucas, Chris Webber
C: Bill Walton, Wes Unseld, Artis Gilmore, Bob Lanier, George Mikan
/r/QOTSA Official Band of the Week 21: ALL THEM WITCHES
I suppose it is possible. Some people can be Peter Gabriel fans without being Genesis fans, or Ozzy Osbourne fans without being Black Sabbath fans, or Audioslave fans without being fans of Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine. And I am pretty sure that there are Foo Fighters fans out there who are not fans of Nirvana -- probably because Foo Fighters are a way better band than Nirvana.
Yeah, I said it. Come at me.
But QotSA without Kyuss? I can’t see it. Maybe I am biased because I just love the low desert sound. Heavy riffs, lots of fuzz ,and earthquake-inducing bass are my jam. That’s why I love Self-Titled so much and why I feel 18 A.D. is chronically underappreciated as a song, and it is an absolute crime that they don’t play it live.
I know I am not alone in this. Kyuss were a genre defining band that created what we now call Stoner Rock. Bands like Valley of the Sun, King Buffalo, Truckfighters, Stonerror, Sleep, Clutch, Mother Engine, Mondo Generator, Duel, and Fu Manchu all continue to write and perform Stoner Rock today. If you haven’t taken a dive into this scene, I totally envy the fact that you get to experience this music for the first time.
Today we are going to check out a great Stoner Rock band that just dropped a new album a few weeks ago. They have more fuzz than a five day backwoods fishing trip. They have bigger jams than Smucker’s, Welch’s, and Kraft combined. They will make your one-hitter hit a home run. You are gonna want to roll down the windows of your low riding caddy and drive all night through the desert.
Yep, you are in for a treat. This week’s band is ALL THEM WITCHES.
You are familiar with the Hero’s journey, right? That is the literary trope where our protagonists leave their comfortable little world, are mentored through a series of increasing challenges, find themselves at a low point, overcome obstacles, and return home greater and wiser than before?
As with every story of heroes, our group of adventurers from Nashville Tennessee went on a truly epic journey. Drummer Robby Staebler had just arrived in Nashville from Portland, Oregon and was looking for some buds to start a band. He had rolled up at his new home in the back of a moving van, because his mom had decided that he was just not good enough to ride up front. His dad was conspicuously absent. After meeting a sketchy male role model with a Smashmouth-esque chinstrap beard, he was forced by this would-be academic to enslave a small animal. He then ran away from home to engage in a series of escalating gladiatorial fights for money.
Wait. Shit. That is the plot of Pokemon Emerald, not the story of All Them Witches. Damn free emulators. Such a massive time sink.
Mudkip for the win. You are damn right I’m bringing back that meme.
Where was I? I kinda got distracted there. Oh yeah. Robby Staebler was looking for a band. He met guitarist Ben McLeod in a bar (remember when we could meet people in bars?) and then met aspiring drama student Charles Michael Parks Jr. when he took a job at “a corporate hippie store”. Parks Jr. turned those theatre aspirations into being a great frontman and bass player. The band rounded out their membership with Allan Van Cleave, a friend of Staebler, on keys. All Them Witches took the inspiration for their name from the set-prop book entitled All of Them Witches in the 1968 Roman Polanski Spawn-of-Satan movie Rosemary’s Baby.
Let’s get something else out of the way: Yes, I said Nashville Tennesee. The Buckle of the Bible Belt. The Protestant Vatican. The Athens of the South. The Hot Chicken Capital. Yes, the self-proclaimed Music City is perennially associated with Country music, Gospel music and, to a lesser extent, contemporary Christian Rock. There is a Jazz scene. There are active Barbershop groups. The city is the home of the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Hee Haw was shot there. It is a city that, until a few decades ago, still had strong ties to the Confederacy.
How the hell did a Stoner Rock band start there?
Quickly, that’s how.
The band were officially formed in February of 2012 (remember when that year was supposed to be the end of the world? C’mon, Mayans, if you really meant 2020 why didn’t you just say 2020?) and released their first album, Our Mother Electricity, on December 6th, 2012. Being from Nashville, the album was of course released on the German heavy psych label Elektrohasch Schallplatten. So just so we’re clear: Stoner Rock was born in the California Desert and then adopted by a band from Tennessee and released on a German label. I just have one question: Where the fuck is Carmen Sandiego?
To be fair, All Them Witches characterized their debut sound as being ‘psychedelta rock’...which kinda sounds like a knock off version of an X-Man. The album is full of heavy jams. Listeners can expect to hear the influence of the blues mixed with deep fuzz and highly compressed vocals. Until it Unwinds is over eight minutes of rolling swagger that will have you thinking about 50 Million Year Trip. Heavy/Like a Witch has some definite Stone Temple Pilots vibes and is a great opener. The true standout on the album is The Urn, a dark and twisted fable that is really the antithesis of everything one associates with music in the Bible Belt. The album was a declaration of war on everything cheery and pleasant to be found in the Music City, and a bold statement from a band finding its feet.
The band were not entirely happy with the production on Our Mother Electricity. In order to assert themselves, they went ultra low-tech. The released the Extra Pleasant EP in July of 2013. It was recorded on a 4-track cassette tape using only two microphones. Production-wise, it is a step back - but when you listen to it on headphones, you can appreciate the raw talent. It is a weird low-fi follow up and almost like listening to a debut rather than the first album. Listening to this EP is like hearing a Pink Floyd cover band’s first original songs that have been mashed up with Clutch and recorded on an iPhone 4. Even with those limitations, tracks like Sludger will stay with you and are worth your time.
While their first two releases had some modest success, All Them Witches really did not get widespread acclaim until the release of their second full album, Lightning at the Door, in late 2013. Every band that has ever released anything on Bandcamp wants to experience the kind of underground word-of-mouth sensation that this album generated. The album is part-concept, part-thematic and has narrative threads that tie it together (e.g. the two tracks The Marriage of Coyote Woman and The Death of Coyote Woman - clearly, not a happy ending for the titular character). If you loved Songs for the Deaf and Rated R, then this is the album that you are going to want to start with as an introduction to the band. It has some amazing tracks - Funeral for a Great Drunken Bird and When God Comes Back are great on their own - but it is best experienced as a complete album. Do yourself a favor: Find a great set of headphones and listen to it front to back. You’ll thank me.
How do you follow up a concept album that gives you unforeseen popularity and access to a broader audience? Do you, say, create a dark follow-up to it, and find the title for that album in a lyric from a hidden track?
Who the fuck would make a weird choice like that?
All Them Witches took a different route and decided to instead channel their inner Beck. The Effervescent EP came out in June of 2014. There are only two songs, each clocking in at about 25 minutes long. Side A is Effervescent and Side B is Tnecsevreffe. The EP is a Rorschach blot of instrumental music in multiple movements that channels incredible musicality and allows you to superimpose your own meaning on it. It is like listening to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin have a baby, if that baby was raised listening to coyotes howl and instrumental Kyuss tracks all mashed together on one continuous loop. Fans of the German band Mother Engine will hear definite parallels. The weird thing about Effervescent is its length: it is hard to think of it as an EP, because it is 50 minutes of music. But it has only two tracks, so it can’t really be an album...can it?
Yes, before you start in on me, I know about Sleep’s Dopesmoker. That 2003 one-song album may also have influenced our boys from the Hee Haw city.
So after playing around with longer and more intricate multiple-movement songs, it is no surprise that All Them Witches dropped a 57 minute ‘EP’ in 2015. A Sweet Release hit the airwaves on April 20. Yep, 4/20. No, that was not a coincidence. No, I’m not going to explain that to you. If you gotta ask, you’ll never know. Yes, if anyone doubted at all that this band was a Stoner Rock band, fuck all y’all, the release date is proof. Tracks on the EP range in length from almost 2 and a half minutes to over 24 minutes. It is a spacey, laid-back jam that is at times hypnotic and far-reaching, and equally urgent and immersive.
I’m not saying that you need to be high to appreciate this EP. I’m just saying that listening to Interstate Bleach Party and Howdy Hoodee Slank in the right…mood ...can make you see the color Octarine.
Lightning at the Door and Effervescent cemented All Them Witches as true underground masters of Stoner Rock. 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker saw them broaden their musical scope and refine their sound. The album (yes, it is an album this time) leans heavily into the Blues with layers of grunge and psychedelia and celtic strings and even harmonicas. (Side note: the last time I heard harmonicas used in Stoner Rock was never. So good on them. I will say this: the hook brings you back.) All these influences were mixed in one big bowl and smoked out the top of a giant bong for full effect. It is at the same time a more technical and more mellow album. Stand out tracks on the album are the hard hitting Dirt Preachers and El Centro and This is Where it Falls Apart.
All Them Witches found themselves touring the small club circuit and then playing bigger and bigger stages. They got invited to festivals like Bonnaroo and were greeted by enthusiastic fans (and clouds of fragrant haze). There is nothing like performing live to hone a band’s edge. By the time Sleeping Through the War dropped in 2017, the boys had been together, touring and recording, for five years. The album is tightly crafted by a tight band. There are even guest vocalists to add texture and harmony to the songs. Less mellow than its predecessor, the album roars right from the opening track - Bulls - through to the closing track, Guess I’ll Go Live On The Internet. 3-5-7 is probably one of the best Stoner Rock tracks you will come across. And when you recognize the tonal mirroring of Am I Going Up with Alabaster, you feel smarter than you actually are. Lots of albums have made me bang my head; very few have made me stop and recognize the musical structure that underpins the melody. That is Tool-level composition right there. Long story short: this is an album put out by a band in its prime and it does not disappoint.
If you remember what happened in English class, what follows the apotheosis for the main character is the falling action or denouement. All Them Witches had peaked with Sleeping Through the War and had nowhere to go but down. The 2018 Lost and Found EP was four (comparatively) short covers and remixes that seemed more like leftovers than an actual meal. Sure, leftovers can be tasty, but All Them Witches fans were used to getting new and better breakfasts, luncheons and dinners and instead got last Tuesday’s reheated bean burrito. Which is fine, if you dig burritos, but it is still not as good as a nice, juicy steak.
Goddam, is anyone else craving a meal? Why is it so smoky in here, and why do I want to eat burritos and Doritos?
Hehe. Dorito. Burrito.
Fuck. I need to focus. Moving on.
Any fan of the band could tell that something was up, and that Lost and Found was at best a B-Side. It soon became evident that something really was up. Keyboardist (and part-time violinist) Allan Van Cleave was out of the band. This left a gigantic Ray Manzarek-esque hole in the band’s sound. The breakup was not a good one, and left some scars.
Van Cleave was replaced by Jonathan Draper, and the band released the album ATW in Sept of 2018. Sonically, the album is sound, but seems to lack the spark of greatness that was in everything prior to Lost and Found. The technical skills are there - Draper knows his way around a keyboard, and that is clearly evident on Fishbelly 86 Onions - but it kinda (IMHO) sounds more like an amazing All Them Witches cover album than an actual effort by the band. It is kinda like Bryan Cranston dressing up in a Walter White mask. It is super close to previous efforts but just not the same, somehow. 1st vs. 2nd is a jam and so is Diamond, and the album has an unrelenting energy, but it is just a bit off the mark.
The band must have felt something similar. Draper was turfed from the group just a month after ATW dropped. Instead of trying to recreate the four member sound that had anchored them since John Cusak and Amanda Peet’s landmark film, they decided to choose a new direction entirely.
When bands shuffle their lineup, it tends to be adding members (like our very own ancient monarchs) or replacing members. Very few bands successfully delete members. Well, OK, that band from Liverpool did successfully delete Stuart Sutcliffe from its lineup and they went on to do alright. Genesis made a successful transition from a 4-piece to a 3-piece when Peter Gabriel left. Oasis got 100% better when Liam Gallagher and his ego both quit. But losing an integral part of your sound - and the keyboards were central in so many songs - would be a tough transition. The band’s fanbase-not-so secretly worried that the lack of keyboardist would spell the end. Thankfully, we were wrong.
All Them Witches took that leap. Digging into their nomenclature and lore, they released a single as a three-piece band on Halloween of 2019. 1X1 is an angry, powerful Stoner Rock jam with a video that is an homage to Jesus Christ Pose. It is a Kyuss-meets-Tool-meets-Led Zeppelin-at-a-Black-Sabbath-concert song that made everyone simultaneously applaud and exhale.
They were back.
The new LP Nothing as the Ideal just dropped on September 4th, 2020. It is a leaner, meaner iteration of the band that seems to have lost no momentum. Everything resonates with power. Saturnine and Iron Jaw evokes Tony Iommi riffage. The Children of Coyote Women is a direct callback to the album Lightning at the Door. 41 is a thumping tune and Enemy of my Enemy is a relentless sonic attack. But most importantly, we get to see All Them Witches evolve as a band but hang on to the core of their sound.
You’re never going to hear this band on your local top 40 radio station. You might catch them on College radio, if the DJ is cool enough. Like most great music nowadays, you have to go looking to find it. But when you do find it, what an amazing experience it can be.
So now you have completed your Hero’s Journey (Twist! It turns out that YOU were the hero all along!) According to the trope, you are now older and wiser because you have ventured out of your comfortable little world.
Now prove me right, hero. Go listen and awaken your inner stoner. And bring me some goddamn Doritos. Cool Ranch for the win.
Links to QOTSA
Josh has included All Them Witches on The Alligator Hour and is known to be a fan of the band.
A recent review of Nothing as the Ideal stated that Charles Michael Parks Jr.’s voice was “Fantastic...like a bassier Josh Homme”.
More importantly, All Them Witches are a Stoner Rock band...and Josh literally invented the genre. It is clear that while the band has grown and evolved and are taking themselves to new places, their music has been inspired by that downtuned, low desert Kyuss groove.
Until it Unwinds
Heavy/Like a Witch
Extra Pleasant EP
The Marriage of Coyote Woman
Funeral for a Great Drunken Bird
When God Comes Back -- Live and badass
Interstate Bleach Party
Howdy Hoodee Slank
Dirt Preachers -- Live in 2016
This is Where it Falls Apart
Fishbelly 86 Onions
1st vs. 2nd
Under Pressure -- yes, that song.
The Children of Coyote Woman
Enemy of my Enemy
Show Them Some Love
Alice in Chains
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Rage Against the Machine
Run the Jewels
Eagles of Death Metal
Them Crooked Vultures
Greta Van Fleet
Sound City Players