Columnfortably Numb: Psych And Noise Rock Reviews For March

JR Moores uses his crystal ball to predict what the rest of this year has in store for us all, and checks out the latest psych-rock offerings

According to the Chinese zodiac, we have just entered the year of the Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs. There is only one viable conclusion to draw from this: 2019 promises to be a big year for loud and sticky psychedelic rock music. With that in mind, here are a few key dates to scribble into your diary…

March: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard announce their latest string of albums, 247 in total, to be released over the next 246 days. 123.5 of the albums will be in collaboration with Thee Oh Sees. Another 123 will feature the maraca player from Brian Jonestown Massacre. 0.5 of the albums will be produced by omnipresent disco pest Calvin Harris (THAT’S NOT EVEN HIS REAL NAME, SHEEPLE!).

April: No deal Brexit. Deal Brexit. No Brexit at all. Soft Brexit. Hard Brexit. Big Brexit. Small Brexit. Brexit the size of David Davis’ stupid fat head. Whatever the outcome of this international übershambles, one thing’s for sure. Flaming Lips will release something wacky for Record Store Day that will be out of your price range.

May: On the set of a new 16-part Netflix documentary series exploring the societal importance of jesters, Jim Carrey and Russell Brand’s cod-guru wisdom beards intertwine with one another, creating a double-headed monster of sanctimonious new-age bullshittery. Thankfully, Ty Segall decapitates the twinned riche hippy and uses the bloody image for the cover of his next LP.

June: Sadly it looks as though Paul McCartney will not be gracing the Glastonbury stage as he’s announced US dates for the exact same weekend. Seeing as his schedule is less full these days, step up Mr Starkey! Sorry, did you think I meant Ringo Starr? No. I’m talking about the eminent historian David Starkey who will be headlining the pyramid stage with a three-hour keynote lecture on how rappers didn’t belong in the court of Henry VIII and they most certainly do not belong here.

July to October: Neil Young’s guitar solo at Hyde Park.

November: Nate Young and John Olson announce the replacement for Crazy Jim Baljo in the latest shakeup of Wolf Eyes personnel. Joining them on tour will be none other than Johnny Marr from The Cribs. The sound promises to be much like the Wolf Eyes style of yore – a psychojazz gritscape of clattering hell’s rubble – only quite a bit more jangly.

December: If we’re all still alive, Tool might have completed work on their fifth studio album. It will have song titles like ‘Paradoxus Ad Hominem’, ‘Lip Scratch’ and ‘The Coroner’s Dilemma (Pt. IV)’. The sleeve can be decorated with all the Alex Grey artwork their label’s bank account can afford, Tool’s album will not be remotely psychedelic. It will be lapped up by men who always wear shorts in order to show off their huge Celtic calf tattoos. It will by no means be worth the wait.

Volcano – The Island

(Tee Pee)

You can tell what some beat combos will sound like from their band name alone. Take Harsh Toke, for instance. Now what might they play? Hazy stoner rock with tracks that can last upwards of twenty minutes, of course. Volcano is a more elusive name. It could equally imply indie rock, math rock or igneous rock. Harsh Toke’s Gabe Messer is on keys and vocals for Volcano, with fellow luminaries of the San Diego psych scene bouncing around his orbit. This is a long way from stoner rock though. It’s way too busy and excited. It’s essentially a postmodern Afrobeat album, with its eyes on Can, James Brown, George Clinton and probably Goat. The time signatures are erratic and varied. The rhythms are funkier than Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow and his collection of colourful ties. The geetar wig-outs are righteous and soulful. The singing sounds like a mostly naked acid casualty is trying to cast the demons out of a haunted surf shack. All this suggests Volcano are having more fun than a knitting needle in a balloon factory. In fact, I’ve contracted a serious case of FOMO simply by listening to this blasted record and the thought slowly dawning on me that for some reason my life has not turned out the way it should’ve done because I am not a member of this madcap band. Bookers take heed. If you’re arranging a festival and Volcano are the only act on the bill that actually bothers to turn up, that festival is still guaranteed to be a roaring success.

LaBrecque/Barakat – Terminal Desert


Paul LaBrecque is from free-psych oddballs Sunburned Hand Of The Man and releases solo material under the Head Of Wantastiquet guise. Ghazi Barakat has played in bands such as Berlin garage-rock crew The Golden Showers and has recorded lengthy synth-based mediations under the alias Pharoah Chromium. Together they are LaBrecque/Barakat, which makes sense. On Terminal Desert, Barakat is credited with playing the guembri, Moog, beats and Rauschpfeife. Guess which two of those items this ignorant psych columnist had to look up. The first is a three stringed skin-covered bass plucked lute from North Africa. The Rauschpfeife is a reed instrument of the woodwind family that was popular in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe. LaBrecque is on the guitar and synthesiser. No Wikipedia needed there, thank you very much. Theirs is the kind of music that takes up a single side of vinyl per delightfully meandering jam. The first of these, ‘Jajouka Pipe Dream’, swells in and out and wobbles up and down rather playfully thanks to its polyrhythmic percussive sounds, warm synth tones, and exuberant pipe work. You can imagine this is where Wolf Eyes might end up if they grow even more mellow, keep that old aggression dialled down, and spend more time smoking hookahs with Alan Bishop from Sun City Girls. Side Two hosts ‘Planet R-101’ which is built upon an oscillating kosmische ripple. Strings are plucked delicately over the top and there’s an effect placed on these, or perhaps one of the other instruments, that gives the impression time is about to start moving in reverse. Towards the end, the piper starts piping in liberated fashion and what until now was a fairly placid track starts poking holes in the heavens.

Henge – Nothing Head

(God Unknown)

Certain noise-rock outfits find it a challenge to evolve musically. Often they end up sounding exactly the same for record after record, like METZ on the second METZ album. Otherwise, they might grow that little bit worse, like METZ on the third METZ album. Not so for Henge. Their murky 2016 debut showed much promise but Nothing Head sees them really come into their own. It begins with a disarmingly soothing drumless instrumental track reminiscent of The Azusa Plane before shovelling some hearty prog and post-metal traits into the noise-rock blueprint. Track two, ‘The Sea’, is slow, dark, proggy and suitably smitten with Eddie Hazel. In my head at least, this is what that post-Collins Genesis album with the bloke from Stiltskin should’ve sounded like if it wasn’t pants. And didn’t have Tony Banks’ horrid keyboards all over it. The next couple of numbers are more concise, shorter than the briefest track on the latest record by everyone’s favourite pop stars Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs. It’s the kind of material that Neurot Recordings or Hydra Head could shrewdly market to post-metallers "on the go". Blast it with your marmite in the morning before rushing out the door. After that, Henge start stretching the running times out again and making you feel ever more suffocated until you soon start to resemble the unfortunate Frank Poole from 2001: A Space Odyssey, i.e. wearing a big yellow onesie and floating lifelessly out into the infinite. Henge remain rooted to their earlier material in the respect that the singing one still sounds like he’s been locked in the garage for the last 12 years with nothing but dusty magnetic tape for sustenance. There’s an ecstasy tablet on the front cover, for flip’s sake. Happy pills, my arse. 

USA/Mexico – Matamoros

(Riot Season)

Butthole Surfers used provide the upper barometer scale via which lazy music journalists could measure the dementedness of music. Well now there’s a new touchstone in town and it comes courtesy of Buttholes’ drummer King Coffey, here in league with Craig Clouse and Nate Cross. I don’t know whether USA/Mexico’s live shows involve the screening of upsetting footage of surgical procedures, equipment being set alight, or grown men running around in makeshift nappies. What I do know is that, sonically speaking, USA/Mexico make Butthole Surfers look like a quaint prom date who you’d happily introduce to mommy dearest. Noise rock on the cusp of outright noise music, the amplifiers sound broken, the vocals suggest someone’s got their leg caught in a mantrap while deep in the woods trying to poach fat brown hares, and the mixing desk squeals as if it is undergoing physical torture. It actually smells. It reeks. It stinks to high heaven of gas and vom and oil and off-meat and mouldy airbeds and burnt hair and fishermen’s armpits and Satan’s own laxatived bumbum. Imagine you were invited to a dinner party. The other guests turn out to be the Marquis de Sade, François Rabelais, Hieronymus Bosch, and the kid in the playground who used to poke dead birds in the eye instead of going to class. They feed you fried hog’s scrotum-skin through your ears. That’s what Matamoros is like. It’s all jolly good fun (by which I mean entirely depraved, diseased and deafening) until the final track which really sticks the poop-encrusted boot in on a slower and slower basis for 17 punishing minutes.

Modern Technology – Modern Technology

(Cruel Nature)

Modern Technology write ugly noise-rock songs about the nasty sights we see all around us at this dismal point of late-stage capitalism. Their material doesn’t come across as overly heavy-handed, perhaps because the sound is so deliciously grubby, flea ridden and riff driven. They purport to be a two-piece but ride into sonic battle more like a small army of amplifier-lugging heathens. It’s heavy stuff all right, but there are some bitter post-punk flavours too, right down to the fact that there isn’t a single spot of colour on Modern Technology’s entirely black-and-white Bandcamp page. There’s even a vaguely gothy melodrama in the way bassist/vocalist Chris Clarke groans desperately about wall-building bigots, discount pharmaceuticals, social injustice, austerity measures, anxiety and apathy. It’s also nice to see a band put their money where their mouth is. All profits from this release are being donated to the charities Shelter and Mind which is more than can be said about The 1975’s latest piece of audio piddle. Modern Technology also receive a few extra ticks for calling one song ‘Queue Jumper’ which is truly one of the worst things anybody can be accused of being. Chris Grayling. He’s a queue jumper all right. You can tell by that smug look on his beady little face. Michael Gove? Total queue jumper. Boris Johnson? He’s jumped more queues than he’s had extramarital affairs. Teresa May? She’s jumped every queue she’s ever set her baggy eyes on, and done it while jiggling like the glass of water in Jurassic Park and whistling a jaunty ABBA tune. It can’t drown out the volume of that psychopathic internal monologue though can it, May?

Royal Trux – White Stuff

(Fat Possum)

Royal Trux always seemed to fluctuate between unashamed sloppiness and outright cheese. Guess what? They still do (of course); a fact which is either quaintly heart-warming or a little pathetic, depending on your philosophy. Nearly 20 years after Pound For Pound comes Royal Trux’s latest studio effort (and "effort" really does seem the optimum word when it comes to these two loafers). On White Stuff it continues to be rock clichés performed haphazardly coupled with the glamorisation of drug use in which Royal Trux choose to deal (and "deal" really does seem the optimum yada yada yada). On its cover, the album title is spelled out in white powder on a mirror. Y’know, like blow! Remember our good old friend Johnny Cocaine? Musicians used to sniff it a lot when there was still some dough sloshing around in the industry. For old time’s sake, some of the older ones who’ve paid off their mortgages still do partake at the weekends or at the odd wedding reception discotheque. Not ringing any bells? It’s that funny powder that on a micro scale turns your average dickhead into an even less bearable plonker and on a macro scale screws over entire Latin American nations. It’s so hip!

Is White Stuff good? Erm, Kool Keith does some rapping on ‘Get Used To This’. Is White Stuff any good? Royal Trux earn themselves numerous tQ bonus points for the song title ‘Whopper Dave’. But is White Stuff good? ‘Suburban Junkie Lady’ sounds not dissimilar to early Ween. But is White Stuff any good? Well, it does risk inducing flashbacks to The Whitey Album (1989) by Ciccone Youth. BUT IS WHITE STUFF ANY GOOD, BRO? I dunno, man, can the wacky antics of Eddie and Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous still be considered entertaining or even faintly relatable in this day and age? The pair were accused, in the 2016 Ab Fab movie, of having killed Kate Moss as if anyone born after 1995 could give a flying monkey’s ball. CONCENTRATE NOW. IS WHITE STUFF ANY GOOD? Trying to decide whether Royal Trux are good in 2019 is like being involuntarily sucked into a GIF of the stereotypical Generation-X kids from the Homerpalooza episode of The Simpsons. "Are you being sarcastic, dude?" "I don’t even know anymore." Is White Stuff any good? Sure, whatever. Give it a try. Everything in moderation, I say, Royal Trux included. Just lay off it if you find yourself weeping in front of a petrol station attendant at four in the morning because his hairstyle reminds you of a girl you once met in the T-shirt section of a Virgin Megastore.

Next time: all words in Columnfortably Numb are to be replaced by an ASMR YouTube video of JR Moores stroking his bearded face with a Duracell battery, chewing a promotional biro that was stolen from an open day at Warwick University, and whispering sexily about bees

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