Happy Daze

Nebula conjures up memories of loud Les Pauls, long hair and weed

Over Romano's crisp drum work, which alternates between double-time stomp and triple fills, Glass rocks a rather complicated, Sabbathian riff on high fuzz. His voice sounds as if he's singing with the microphone in his mouth. The song's so pre-metal, so '00s, you can almost see its music video now: the three guys from Nebula jamming, superimposed on a tie-dyed backdrop as the camera zooms in and out real fast.

"Come Down" loses momentum only during the call-and-response chorus, when Glass repeatedly sings, "Come down," and echoes himself with a couple high, fast notes on his guitar.

And it's this return again and again to time-worn rock tactics that makes To the Center a triple instead of a heavy-metal home run. While this trio obviously knows that little accents (e.g., gong bangs, pick scratches, sound effects) are the difference between a decent and a great record, the guys deliver their songs too loosely to leave any long-lasting impact. Glass' guitar playing is often reduced to filler (which is okay for the Who or U2, but not for a band descended directly from Sabbath and UFO). Romano's drumming becomes cliché. And Abshire's bass playing . . . you wonder if there even is a bass player on some tunes.

Maybe it's the contraband. ("When people ask us, 'What kinda drugs you like?'" says Romano, laughing, "I'm like, 'Well, whadda you got?'")

Or the partying. (Does Nebula party? "You bet," says Romano.)

Or living up to the Jeff Spicoli rock tag? ("It's kinda funny," says Romano good-naturedly. "'Stoner rock.' That's cool.")

Whatever it is that gives the band its spacy tendencies, it will force Nebula to face its fate one day. Maybe not tomorrow or next year or two years from now. But like the bands that inspired it, Nebula will have to either change its sound or die. Blue Cheer failed. Sabbath turned into a one-man unglamorous glam-rock band. And Zep adapted well, which meant it crafted some solid stuff. For now, Nebula's sound, like being high, is great for a short while but doesn't last long.

Nebula is scheduled to perform on Saturday, January 15, at the Green Room in Tempe, with Bob Log III, and Fireball Ministry. Showtime is 9 p.m.

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