The music on the band's latest, Shivering King and Others, represents an interesting idea -- one that even contemporary, punk-influenced stoner-rock bands haven't fully explored. It's just that Meadow is missing something very important: a lead singer. The D.C. three-piece does technically have one, in guitarist and vocalist Jason Simon, but his soft, limited voice is so far back in the mix and so heavily treated that it sounds like an afterthought. Simon is a great guitar player, one with enough trippy licks that he wouldn't be out of place on the Nuggets boxed set or, in his more reserved moments, somewhere in the Spaceman 3 catalog. But his vocals detract from the mood.
Perhaps the band's reluctance to bring the voice to the front has something to do with the Dungeons & Dragons lyrics. Here's a taste from the track "Shivering King": "The gold of your ring/Like the gold of your crown/And a ring on the ground/Is a ring to be found." Yikes, my precious! It may just be that the murkiness of this recording and the annoying length of the 12 songs (most of which clock in at more than six minutes) take away the glory of the music's live sound. Either way, Shivering King is a disappointment -- which is too bad, because live, Dead Meadow is one of those bands that can rivet even the smallest of crowds.