Columnfortably Numb: Psych Rock For September Reviewed By JR Moores

Psych rock is over! Taking cues from the King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard's latest direction, JR Moores decides to join the thrash metal revival (for a bit)

Remember when Moby momentarily embraced thrash metal on 1996’s Animal Rights? It was good, wasn’t it? Remember when Animal Rights didn’t sell a solitary copy so Moby took a drastically different tack by appropriating a load of old Lomax recordings, flogging the results to colossal marketing companies, buying himself a luxury penthouse apartment, and spiralling into drug and alcohol dependency because of THE GUILT? That wasn’t so much fun, was it? In conclusion, he should’ve stuck to thrash. Moby’s bank account wouldn’t have benefitted. But at least he wouldn’t be climbing the walls, foaming at the mouth, and fabricating past romances with a teenaged Natalie Portman like some kind of terminally deranged character out of Edgar Allan Poe. Quoth the Raver, "Neverportman."

Remember when Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, or Sepultura attempted to do anything that WASN’T thrash? That was bad, wasn’t it? They should’ve stuck to thrash. The best decision Pantera ever made was to abandon the glam-rock hairspray peacocking of their early days and reinvent themselves as a thrash band. Afterwards, they stuck to that style with good reason. No one would’ve wanted to experience Pantera’s latent techno direction.

Remember when Machine Head went all nu-metal on us and started rapping on The Burning Red? Bit cringe, wasn’t it? You know what they should have done instead? Double down on the thrash!!!

Remember the superhumanly prolific psych-prog merchants King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard? How could you forget them? They’re only ever absent from the circuit for periods of up to fourteen minutes. Well they’ve got the correct idea. That’s right, they’ve gone thrash! And you know what they say. When in Rome, do as Dave Mustaine. Therefore, I hereby renounce all psychedelic rock music, promise to retire this column to the sticky binbag of history, and henceforth pledge to write exclusively about thrash metal. The sleeves of my T-shirts have already been torn off and I’ve started believing in dubious conspiracy theories. [Clear your desk and pick up your P45 on your way out, Ed]

(Offer only applies until King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard begin work on their next album.)

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Infest The Rats’ Nest


It’d be very easy to embrace heavy metal and make a complete pig’s ear out of it. However, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have the appropriate fondness for their source material and necessary technical chops to pull this off without the results being wetter than Mötley Crüe’s swimming trunks. Nor does it look like Gizzard are taking the mickey. Show me a metalhead who’s unimpressed by the Gizzard’s enthusiastic efforts to unleash their inner Kreator and I’ll show you somebody who cries salty tears down his Iced Earth vest because BABYMETAL AREN’T THE REAL DEAL BOOHOO WAA WAA WHERE’S MY MOMMY I NEED A WEEWEE.

While much of this record captures the Lizardy Wizards in full-bore thrash mode, the band have been careful and clever enough to introduce a degree of variety too. For the rapid ‘Organ Farmer’ the band don their Slayer baseball caps, part their ankles as widely as possible, and risk a possible neck strain. Elsewhere, the chorus to ‘Perihelion’ introduces some heady space-prog effects. ‘Mars For The Rich’ boogies along as if summoning the sozzled spirit of Lemmy back from his orgiastic afterlife in the underworld. ‘Superbug’ even makes a admirable attempt to out-Sabbath the mighty Sleep. Naturally it’s the longest track on the album, although at only seven minutes it’s a bit of a missed opportunity that the weedian riffs, swingin’ beats, and Geezer Butler bass breakdowns haven’t been permitted to take up an entire side of the LP. Sure, it skirts pretty close to parody but then name me a doom band that doesn’t.

There are still hints of the Gizzard style(s) of yore in terms of the song structures, the group’s irrepressible bounciness, and the overriding lyrical concept of ecological apocalypse. The vocals have a little more roar to them than usual but are not so guttural that anybody’s going to be asking "Is that a guest appearance by the bloke from Deicide who burned an inverted cross into his big old forehead?" Even without scarred flesh and cookie monster singing, at this rate King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard could be contenders to headline next year’s Download Festival. Move over Rammstein! (Preferably into the path of an oncoming freight train, you button-pushing whoppers.)

Flowers – Doom City


"I must have flowers, always, and always," Claude Monet apparently demanded. Who knew the old painter was such a fan of this Amsterdam-based stoner duo? With the occasional exception – (BLUES EXPLOSION!) – bands without a bassist can be a little feeble but singer/guitarist Roos Pollmann and drummer Judith van Oostrum seem capable of rattling the old bowels without even having to draft in Stephen Tanner from Harvey Milk.

The charmingly lo-fi nature of this recording rather suits the band’s downtuned and fuzz-dusted stoner-doom agenda. The lengthy ‘Prologue’ recalls the audacious opening to Melvins’ Lysol (perhaps via Earth, Sleep, Boris, etc.) after which things grow slightly more song-oriented, the phat and snail-paced riffs accompanied by big soggy beats. Vocally, Pollmann comes across as a worn-down riot grrrl, exhausted with despair and unable to lay off the bong. In this day and age, who can blame her? Doom City is a concept album, its lyrics concerning "a decaying, industrial, deserted, isolated place in an empty, resourceless desert". Sounds like the opposite of a beautiful Monet landscape and the perfect soundtrack for a no-deal Brexit. It’s imported from the continent, of course, like fine wine, car parts, fraternity, and hope.

Ecstatic Vision – For The Masses

(Heavy Psych Sounds)

This hairy Philadelphian outfit have ties to Relapse Records, home to bands with names like Dying Fetus, Pig Destroyer, Gatecreeper, Absent Cartilage, and Spume Extractor. However, Ecstatic Vision’s latest release comes courtesy of the more appropriate Heavy Psych Sounds: very much a label that does what it says on the tin. Don’t be fooled, by the way, into thinking that Ecstatic Vision exist merely to fill the void left by Monster Magnet since the New Jersey hard rockers stopped making highly trippy records like Spine Of God and Tab. Sure, Ecstatic Vision lift from some of the same source material – Hawkwind, Motörhead, MC5, Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult, the Nuggets compilation, aviator shades, eminent moustaches of the 1970s, etc. – and they do this rather splendidly. However, as is becoming increasingly evident, they’re also pushing at the boundaries. At their most energetic, the rhythms have greater resemblance to Afrobeat or Turkish psych than anything that usually takes ‘Kick Out The Jams’ as its Year Zero. Hurling around the restlessly swirling tornado of sand and grease, there are clearly a bunch of mad jazz and experimental European influences. I haven’t seen Ecstatic Vision live. Apparently this record is the closest they’ve come to capturing the sound and the spirit of their concerts. On that basis, their gigs must be a complete hoot. Not sure they make it over here very often. Bookers take note. I, for one, will welcome them with open arms, a bottle of the band’s preferred liquor, and some dance moves that are decidedly unbecoming for a gentleman as repressed as I usually feel. Extra points for the song title ‘Yuppie Sacrifice’.

One Eleven Heavy – Desire Path

(Beyond Beyond Is Beyond)

A few weeks ago James "Wooden Wand" Toth uploaded to his Bandcamp page four tracks that have been dedicated to the memory of David Berman. These songs, Toth wrote, "very likely represent the final recordings under the Wooden Wand name and effectively put a cap on WW as an entity / alter ego / project / whatever." The announcement may not have hit the headlines of Billboard magazine but for those in the know, it comes as sad news indeed.

Don’t get too disheartened though because Toth still seems to be making music in other forms, such as that with transatlantic choogle collective One Eleven Heavy. Despite the impractically of having band members based on different continents, this music seems to have been made for the sheer fun of it rather than there being any grand five-year masterplan for headlining a festival in a big park. You never know. The Rolling Stones and Neil Young won’t be around forever, however much their actions defy the very notion of finality.

One Eleven Heavy wear their influences proudly on their sleeves: The Grateful Dead; The Allman Brothers; The Stones; Crazy Horse… You get the picture. As long as you’re not going to get your knickers in a twist over the band’s British member Nick Mitchell Maiato who sings in an accent so American he might as well be shouting it from the top of Mount Rushmore, then ya’ll be mighty fine. To be fair, he’d probably sound pretty weird harmonising with the other members if he were to insist on north-English diphthongs and staying true to the dialectal pronoun usage of his upbringing. Like San Fran ’70s rock revivalists Howlin’ Rain or Brooklyn oil wizards Endless Boogie, One Eleven Heavy aren’t trying to break new ground with their southern fried licks and bottle clinkin’ good-time vibes. Is it all a bit ironic or postmodern, tongue-in-cheek or nostalgic? Ah, who cares? ‘Cause it sure is fun. What’s more, the mind really starts to blur beyond its reasoning capabilities thanks to the funky final track which jitters away at the crossroads between Santana, Captain Beefheart, Pere Ubu, polyrhthmic afrojazz, and a dizzying spell of heatstroke. Wooden Wand is dead. Long live James Toth & co.

Wet Tuna – Water Weird

(Three Lobed)

Many moons ago, Matt "MV" Valentine and Pat "PG Six" Gubler used to perform together in Tower Recordings, a collective that Pitchfork once dubbed "the Wu-Tang Clan of subterranean psych-folk". The pair recently reconvened for this project which, I suppose, is like when Ghostface and Raekwon reunite for another bee-stingin’, neck-protectin’ ruckus ’round the block. There are guest appearances from other homies too, in the form of John Moloney (drums), S. Freyer Esq. (drums/percussion) and Jim Bliss (bass). These masta collaborators assist in making the album a harder hitting affair than last year’s slightly underwhelming Livin’ The Die LP. Nearly nine minutes long, the opening amble starts off as a fairly gentle space-folk ditty before the bass really kicks in and the band start to shake their booties as if momentarily possessed by the spirit of George Clinton’s All-Star P-Funk Magik Mothership Bootzilla Big Band. They keep the energy turned up to 10 for next track, then wisely bring things down a notch on ‘Cowpath 40’. The latter is a bit like Neil Young when he’s in country mood crossed with, erm, Neil Young in what some would call meandering/maddening mode. Only Wet Tuna do it with a sexier bass tone and maybe a touch of the brothers Ween. Side Two features the album’s most abstract piece, ‘Sacagawea’, which really is like losing your mind in the desert next to a bonfire when its flickering flames start to make the surrounding cacti resemble troglodytic mutants visiting the surface for noble purposes… or for ill? ‘Goin’ adds some elegant symphonic synth tones to the mix and ‘Roam’ brings things to a soft conclusion. Wet Tuna keep it fresh like Tupperware, as Inspectah Deck might put it.

Fly Pan Am – C’est Ça


It’s been a while, as the awful post-grunge/nu-metal outfit Staind sang back in 2001. It was almost that long ago that the experimental rock band Fly Pan Am released their last album. That was in 2004, to be precise. The album was called N’écoutez Pas which translates as "DO NOT LISTEN". Presumably some folk still were, so the band went on hiatus. That’ll show ’em. This one’s called C’est Ça, a term that’s usually used as some sort of confirmation in a similar way to how an English speaker might say "exactly", "that’s right", or "that’s it". Hey, Fly Pan Am! Do you want to people to listen to you again? "C’est ça!" Fair enough.

They used to be lumped in with post-rock, of course, being Canadians who released music through Montreal’s Constellation Records and sharing certain members with Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Fly Pan Am were more hyperactive, jittery and shoegaze-inclined than many of their contemporaries, however. They were also, dare I say it, simultaneously more entertaining and more interesting. The track lengths on their comeback album are relatively snappy in length for a post-post-rock band yet chockfull of ideas and in a constant state of flux. Nothing stays still for long in this colourful thunderstorm of pattering drumbeats, motorik bass grooves, restless rhythm changes, sparkling electronics, general stomping and shimmering, disruptive static fuzz, and the kind of dense & woozy guitar effects that Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine took whole decades of his life trying to perfect. (Is that what Fly Pan Am have been up to all this time? Shoegazers, hey? Leave them alone for five minutes and you won’t see them again until your children have finished university.) Beneath the instrumental maelstrom lurk the vocal parts. Some of these are breathy, as might be expected given the marsh-like MBV distortion. On ‘Bleeding Decay’ things get a bit more Public Image Ltd or Pop Group-y in terms of the wobble-throated chanting. In places, the vocals grow so anguished they genuinely approach black-metal levels of existential shriek. Rrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaggggghhhhh!!!!!

Next time: Columnfortably Numb transmits live from the Damnation Festival in Leeds via a secret aerial hidden in the chin beard of Daniel P Carter

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