Zack Oakley is described as a "purveyor of heavy psychedelic rock," and that's exactly what the listener gets with Badlands. Oakley describes the album as a kind of dystopian vision of California. It's not all palm trees and sunshine, it turns out. Oakley is a San Diego-based artist, so he knows the area well. Much like X and the Eagles have done previously, Oakley introduces us to the dark underbelly of SoCal.
Strangely, though, Oakley's musical descriptors don't always fill the listener with negative vibes. The under-the-weather-titled "Fever," for example, finds Oakley peeling off some mighty fine Hendrix-esque guitar riffs. Next, "Mexico" works in some spicy harmonica fills, which also makes the listener feel really good. Oakley even has an acoustic, folky side of his musical personality, which shines through during "Looking High," which slightly unplugs his amplified blues.
Yes, it is possible to tell tragic stories with enjoyable musical accompaniment. In fact, many of our favorite songs apply happy melodies to many times sad sentiments. Just rifle through some of The Cure's biggest hits and you'll hear what I mean. Zack Oakley rocks a whole lot harder than The Cure ever did, but he also has the vision to see the badlands of California that all the travel brochures conveniently obscure.
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