What do you get when you cross recreational drugs with a name most suited to an object of a schoolboy crush? The answer is Coke Weed’s Mary Weaver, the new album from the Bar Habor, Maine-based band with an eyebrow-raising name.
Self-described as “bubblegum space goth funk,” but more frequently and manageably lumped in with psych rock, Coke Weed combines the trippiness of the first part of the above formula with the easy sincerity of the second. Comprised of Nina Donghia (vocals), Milan McAlevey (guitar, vocals), Caleb Davis (guitar), Zach Soares (bass), and Peter Cuffari (drums), the band presents music that’s a little softer than its name but a lot harder than most things attached to the name Mary. They don’t shy away from mushy things (“I’m trying to unravel why I can’t be yours” Donghia sings in “The Chill”) or the macabre (“Swear on your mother’s grave,” a low, terrifying voice says on the 16-second transitional track, “Providence”). They’re cool in that “don’t give a fuck” relaxed way, but deliberate enough to show that they really do.
Much of the sense of coolness comes from a sound that manages to be both laid back and upbeat. Shifting along the spectrum of reverb and distortion, most of the songs circle around the same basic elements: trading guitars, some audacious electric guitar riffs, and Donghia’s nonchalant singing. Somehow, though, the album never strays too far into the territory of monotony. Within the basic format that Coke Weed has perfected over the course of four albums, they find extreme variations. From the uptempo, ‘70s hard-rock “New Jive” with it’s cry, “There’s a war on the street,” to the male-female duet, indie romance “Street Secrets,” Mary Weaver hits on a wide range of sounds with all of their accompanying parade of associated eras, genres, and bands (‘90s, glam rock, and Iggy Pop, to name a few).
A couple of the songs fail to fully land, though. The music favors guitars, often bright and at a higher range, that mirror or intertwine with vocals, which sometimes overpowers the bass and leads to a floating feeling—as if the music is not completely filled in or grounded (see “The Chill,” for example). More often, though, Coke Weed harnesses the meandering feeling, creating the dreamy effect that earns psychedelic rock its descriptor. On “I Could Be So Real,” Donghia’s voice, coolly lackadaisical in a way few can pull off, plays off of distorted chords and stronger bass, not straying far from the low and repetitive rumble. Though the song —and the album as a whole—doesn’t necessarily arrive at the place you expect it to, there’s gratification in just settling into its drift.