Words by Andrew Ryan Fetter
Andrew Fetter has been writing about music for over the last decade and playing in bands for even longer. His latest endeavor is the radio hour, The Noise Kaleidoscope which airs Tuesdays from 4:30-5:30pm ET on 99.1FM WQRT in Indianapolis (Past episodes are archived online). On it he covers his personal collection and influences of psych rock from over the last half century, starting with early influences and reaching to its modern incarnations.
What a treat! TWO Brian Jonestown Massacre albums in a single column! We’ll break tradition and start (briefly) with this year’s Fire Doesn’t Grow On Trees (A Recordings). It’s a bit surreal to jump ahead 2 decades and I debated putting this one off until we reached it in our chronological “dive” into their work. However, I feel it’s relevant to at least take a glimpse in the context of it being new. This album has probably their strongest start with the heavy hitting “The Real.” The droning riff and pounding drums set the tone just right. It moves right into “Ineffable Mindfuck” and there’s just no stopping this record. I remember hearing these two tracks when I saw them live and being ready as hell to get this record into my ears. And even more so for its followup later this year.
Now let’s rewind a bit to 1998’s Strung Out In Heaven, the band’s first and only album with TVT, after years with Bomp! Anton’s heroin addiction inhibited his ability to write, so guitarist Matt Hollywood picked up some slack, writing and singing on a few tracks. But whatever “absence” might be felt just isn’t there. It speaks to both Hollywood’s songwriting ability, but also the spirit of the group itself, albeit under the strict leadership of Newcombe (which I’m still not convinced isn’t a bit of an affectation, case in point he refers to himself as Dr. Anton A Newcombe on the album’s front cover). It may not be as aggressive as their previous work but the restraint is what makes it such a solid release.
I can’t sing the praises of Riding Easy Records enough. The stoner/psych gems that they’ve unearthed and rescued from being forgotten is a true gift. One such gem was Randy Holden’s Population II. His first solo record, originally released in 1969, is seen by many as what gave birth to doom metal. Thick heavy riffs and big boomy drums, how do you top it? Apparently you wait 50+ years and release a follow up that even surpasses it! Recorded and shelved a decade ago, Population III finally sees the light of day. 6 sludge-ridden blues tracks that will make your head spin, in the best possible way. “Living End” starts with a nice slow groove that’ll knock you on your ass and each following song keeps you there. “Swamp Stomp” hints back to Holden’s beginnings and pays it the proper respect, while at the same time looking forward and keeping the momentum forward.
Not sure (or not caring) if it’s 1971 or 2022, Philly-based Ecstatic Vision’s latest release Elusive Mojo (Heavy Psych Sounds) hits like a truck and never slows down. Balls to the wall rock in the vein of Hawkwind and Monster Magnet with swirling riffs and solos to send your brain into the next galaxy. Even the short intro “March Of The Troglodytes” sets the high energy vibe. And if you aren’t sold by the end of the title track, there’s no hope for you. Vocalist Doug Sabolik channels Lemmy himself (in the best possible way) and Kevin Nickles’s sax solos (particularly on “The Kenzo Shake”) add just the right touch that will make Stooges fanatics take note.
I don’t know how this one missed my radar but I can’t let you go without paying tribute to the latest release from the gods of desert rock themselves. Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri (from the might Kyuss) have dropped a new record under their moniker STÖNER titled simply totally… (Heavy Psych Sounds), follows up their debut (Stoners Rule) with a chill vengeance (it makes sense, trust me). The opener “A Million Beers” is a high tempo party anthem and starts this off the right way. Brant and Nick have certainly made their mark separately in the stoner/desert rock world, but STÖNER brings all that experience and wisdom together in a perfect blend that’s impossible not to admire.