The year is 2015 and a handful of states have legalized recreational marijuana, while an even larger handful of cities have decriminalized the substance. But let’s rewind to a different moment. No, not to the early weed soaked seventies of Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, but to 2010. It was almost five full years ago that Matt Adams, otherwise known as The Blank Tapes, started recording Geodesic Dome Piece in sunny San Francisco. If you are wondering if that kind of time lapse makes the album sound dated, or quaint, or tinges it with an indescribable indulgence, it does. Not because it sounds like 2010, but because it sounds precisely like San Fransisco in the early '70s. It's the kind of record Pynchon’s Doc Sportello can’t even hear coming through his own speakers he's so stoned.
You don’t have to listen to understand the theme. The first track is titled “Way Too Stoned” and is followed by other tempered nods such as “4:20,” “Magic Leaves,” and “Do You Want to Get High?” What do you think “For Breakfast” is going to be about?
Unfortunately, the music on Geodesic Dome Piece is just as opaque. There is little to no musical discovery on Geodesic Dome Piece, with most of the riffs and harmonies lifted right out of the purple haze floating up from Haight and Ashbury. This kind of unabashed immersion makes the album great for nostalgia, and The Blank Tapes are well-practiced, but this rigid devotion also makes it easy to put down. The guitars on “Way Too Stoned” shimmer and groove like a classic Zombies track, but then the vocals set in and you suddenly need to check your phone to see what year it is.
“Magic Leaves” offers a spacey intro with echoing low register vocals that never seem to get quite as trippy as you're expecting. There is an almost Black Keys-esque chorus change which holds up surprisingly well and would seem to offer a touchstone for the album's time-changing center. However, Adams and company seem more fascinated with developing this work into a concept album about smoking weed. The album closer, "To Your Dome Piece," offers a somber sway of slide guitar which could almost make you shudder until about the eighth time Adams repeats the song's only lyric, “To your dome piece.” There are about three more minutes of that to sift through. It might be pot humor, but even James Franco and Seth Rogen are experimenting with a little bit of craft these days.
Geodesic Dome Piece comes apart as a glaring pot stereotype: unmotivated and apathetic. No wonder it took five years to release.