ALBUM REVIEW: Mario Lalli and The Rubber Snake Charmers – Folklore From The Other Desert Cities

Mario Lalli is a legend in the Desert Rock scene whose career started in the mid-eighties with a short-lived outfit, Across the River. From there, he’d form Yawning Man and then Fatso Jetson, (the latter with brother Larry and who’d put out their first couple of releases on the legendary SST Records label). Other bands such as

 would come and go over the years, not to mention a never-ending raft of guest appearances. 

The Rubber Snake Charmers were forged in 2013 and performed four times that year. The project would see a revival in 2022 with an impressive line-up that featured Mario Lalli (Bass/Vocals), Sean Wheeler (Vocals/Poetry), Brant Bjork (Guitar), Ryan Güt (Drums), and Mathias Schneeberger (keyboards). Most will be aware of Lalli and Bjork’s musical history but it’s worth noting that Wheeler performs with Psychobilly Punkers Throw Rag, Schneeberger is a producer, mixer and owner of Donner & Blitzen Studios, and Güt has performed with Bjork both solo as well as in Stöner

Folklore From The Other Desert Cities (Heavy Psych Sounds) is the band’s debut and was recorded during a special live performance in Gold Coast Australia. The album commences with Creosote Breeze” and immediately recalls contemporary bands such as Greeks Naxatras and Italians Giöbia, as well as possessing shades of legendary outfits such as The Screaming Trees and their brand of Grungy Psych. Wheeler’s spoken-word approach tips its hat to Doors frontman Jim Morrison, with Bjork’s Hendrix-style funky guitar providing a perfect accompaniment. 

It’s a mind-melting opener that segues effortlessly into “Swamp Cooler Reality”. This track can be viewed as something of a continuation of its predecessor with the kind of jams that sound ideally suited to the hot climes of the Gold Coast as well as the generator parties of the Palm Desert where the band has their roots. It would be hard to imagine the setting for such music being rainy Manchester (UK), home to gloomy Post-Punkers Joy Division, or the wilderness of Norway where Black Metal has its origins. That said for those living in such dreary or let’s say, less glamorous climes, the imagery evoked here would undoubtedly prove something of a welcome auditory escape. 

“Other Desert Cities” (with its video premiered here at Ghost Cult)feels a little jazzy in spots, with a strong improvisational quality in both the music and vocals. The Blues even make an appearance with a loose take on Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” which Nirvana fans may recognize from that band’s interpretation of said track on their MTV Unplugged album. Forget Eric Clapton, even Led Zeppelin (although “No Quarter” is hinted at), this is how great Blues-Rock can sound when done well. “The Devil Waits for Me” is the longest number on the album at well over eleven minutes and sees Wheeler reeling off classic bands such as Beasts of Bourbon and Cosmic Psychos as a kind of tribute to their Australian hosts, as well as various significant figures/cultural landmarks from their own country. There is more structure here making it by far the most ‘conventional’ sounding track on Folklore From The Other Desert Cities and maybe the hook with which to attract potential listeners; an ideal way with which to conclude the record. 

As can be expected considering the calibre of its members, this is a fun, meditative piece of work and one which comes highly recommended. 

Buy the album here:

8 / 10