Highway Stars

Datura4 CosmicWest Coast Highway Cosmic - Datura4 (Alive Natural Sound) 

From the opening title track, Datura4 roars into life like a modern-day Steppenwolf. They’re all Hammond organ, vintage synths and a rock band, intent on making a statement.

Datura4 employ a massive wall of sound that departs from Dom Mariani's preferred '60s space into late '60s-early '70s, Deep Purple shtick - without the overindulgence of Ritchie Blackmore. Datura4 still displays its garage roots, but is a blend of Arizona desert rock a la early Alice Cooper... albeit updated with modern sounds.

These are well-written songs that still have Dom Mariani's vocal signature sound. Bob Patient's sonic landscape of Hammond organ, piano and Moog - and the credited purple fudge - set this project apart from DM3 and The Stems, nicely.

Leaning further into the '70s rock with tracks like "Wolfman Woogie" and "Rule My World" (both featuring a rocking harmonica from Howie Smallman), the rhythm section packs a massive punch with Stu Loasby and Warren Hall kicking it along with venom. The jam-ish "Boogie" rocks along in that theme, but that unmistakeable pop sensibility kicks in with some hooky goodness.

Some rocking guitars and wah-wah solos, phased out tom toms, tight as a veritable fish's...this mix of psychedelic sounds and garage pop have the wig-out manoeuvres that make this album put a smile on my dial...even without the deadly nightshade. - The Celebrity Roadie

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Four albums into the game and they’re still smoking - in the non-carcinogenic sense. Even though the title describes a well-traveled road between their two chosen recording studios in Western Australia, Datura4 is yet to hit a speed hump.

“West Coast Highway Cosmic” is a very different beast to its predecessors but nonetheless another prime achievement.  The addition of keyboardist Bob Patient to the core membership of Dom Mariani, bassist Stu Loasby and drummer Warren Hall has broadened the palette. 

Mariani is best known for leading venerable Aussie band The Stems who brought the ‘60s to The Australian ‘80s scene, but his earliest influences were absorbed from the Oz Rock pantheon of the early ‘70s. Mariani grew up in the West Australian port town of Fremantle so much of what he took on board was glimpsed via the national broadcaster's GTK filmclp show.

Mariani ably manages all the guitar parts and, of course, sings. The band’s ethos remains true to its early ‘70s sonic ambitions. D4 is harking back but also looking forward with another choice crop of well-crafted songs. 

Bob Patient’s expansive keys are over most of these 10 tracks and recalls Jon Lord in an early Deep Purple or Warren Morgan in The Aztecs. He’s a veteran sideman who’s played with the likes of Dave Hole. Chain, Mariani’s own DM3 and a gazillion other Perth acts. He excels on cuts like “Give” and the title track, where he’s given ample space to move. 

Jam bands can often disappear up their own back catalogue but D4 rock even when they get self indulgent. The furious opening jams of “Mother Medusa” and chugging blues of “Wolfman Boogie” will leave a bruise. Dom peels off some stinging guitar on the aforementioned “Give” in particular. The rollicking blues of “Rule My World” could have brought a pissed and stoned Sunbury festival crowd to its feet at 4am. 

“You’re The Only One” switches the mood to soulful reserve. Howie Smallman adds some steamy blues harp. Patient adds the boogie woogie to “Get Out”, and adds some heavy cool to “Evil People Pt 1”, a cousin to the similarly titled song on the previous album, “Blessed is the Boogie”.

“West Coast Highway Cosmic” builds on the bedrock of “Blessed…” and if it doesn’t reach the same heights, it sure doesn’t fall short by much. Four out of four ain’t bad.

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Tags: dm3, alive natural sound, datura4, dom mariani, the stems, west coast highway cosmic

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