Marijuana Johnson - Gem City Kush (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Marijuana Johnson

Gem City Kush (2021)

Smoke Heavy Records

Eleven years is a long time to go between albums, even if you’re a Tool fan. But, just over a decade later Dayton, Ohio’s Marijuana Johnson has returned with some new band members and their latest album, Gem City Kush. As the title may suggest, the song titles reaffirm, and the lyrics will verify they are a stoner metal band.

It would be fair to say that this album is going to break down many new walls in the genre. But, it is still a great album. One thing the band succeeds at, that many lesser known bands within the genre struggle with, is paying homage to their influences without completely ripping them off. Musically, these songs are peppered with nods to the late eighties punk scene in Seattle, Sleep, Black Sabbath, Electric Wizard, and The Melvins with vocals that sound like King Buzzo and David Yow (The Jesus Lizard) somehow managed to create offspring together.

Album opener, “This Smoke,” pulls you in immediately because while it is heavy as hell there are still riffs that keep people seeking something outside of droning guitars into the songs. This isn’t to say there aren’t feedback drones are present, but they’re almost always used as a backdrop to build the songs around. Elsewhere, the band builds their metal sound over a groove that could be found on some 1970’s swamp rock albums on “Nuclear Godzilla” and even flirt with breakneck hardcore punk on “Green Means Go.”

As previously mentioned, nods to marijuana are present in several song titles including the hilariously named, “You Don’t Get Off Till You Cough”. But even with song titles that reference marijuana use and lyrics that follow in kind, but it never takes away from the ability of those who don’t partake from enjoying them album. That is to that someone who’s straight edge could put this on the same shelf as their Vitamin X records the same way an early 90’s hip-hop head could have Cypress Hill and Jeru the Damaja in their collection.

All in all, this album is a great listen and great time. It was interesting to find this album was largely, if not entirely, written and recorded during 2020. One thing I’ve found with albums written and recorded during that time, the songs aren’t as developed as songs that have lived out in the world. That isn’t to say there aren’t great songs, and albums, that never got played on stage prior to being recorded. But, there is a lot to be said for how a song can become more fully developed once a live crowd puts their energy into as well. The songs on this album don’t, at first listen, suffer from that feel. That being said, my thoughts on this could change after hearing them play this downtown as Covid restrictions are relaxed and live music starts returning to local venues. This was a great album, here’s hoping we get another one before this one achieves tween status.