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 was the radio hour, The Noise Kaleidoscope which aired on 99.1FM WQRT in Indianapolis (now on hiatus – 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.
2018 saw The Brian Jonestown Massacre releasing two great albums in a single year, harkening back to their more prolific years, although that would seem as if releasing an album every year could be seen as “slacking”. Regardless, the first of the two, Something Else, shows the band sort of getting “back to basics” (well, as basic as they can be). Opener “Hold That Thought” is a melancholy pop jam that really grabs you from the start. As the record progressed, I found myself just sinking into it. It was hard to make notes on what to really “write about” for this record. So much psych rock has to be heard to be described and songs like “Psychic Lips” and “My Poor Heart” just sound like… well, they sound like Brian Jonestown Massacre songs. But with the wisdom (and maybe a twinge of the bitterness) that comes with age. Their second release from 2018 pushes that even further and sets us up perfectly to soon wrap up this particular dive.
It’s sort of bizarre (but also sort of not) the impact that Ripley Johnson has had on my musical interests. Hearing Moon Duo and grabbing onto their eerie space-rock vibe and Wooden Shjips with the more jam-rock feel (without it being boring) were definitely two bands that pulled me deep into this genre that I’ve been covering for the last few years. It’s quite possible the amount of Neil Young I’ve been listening to lately or the years of doing my radio show at a station that primarily broadcasts classic country music has played a part too. And the latest Rose City Band, Garden Song (Thrill Jockey), while not turning me into a full on country music fan, has made me appreciate the cosmic twang all the more. “Chasing Rainbows” is a nice melodic opener that brought an instant smile to my face about 10 seconds in. And it just goes up from there. The title track slows things down, but doesn’t let up on the energy Johnson has brought to this project since its inception. “Porch Boogie” is just that, a boogie. If you can imagine a psychedelic country song that you can dance to, this would be it. As much as I’m longing for new music from Johnson’s other bands, Garden Song hits that spot just right.
Another great Thrill Jockey release this month comes from Dommengang, a Portland trio who bring a heavy blues/psych twist with Wished Eye. It falls somewhere between their labelmates Arbouretum and Dead Meadow. Throughout the album the band teeters between each side of that spectrum however it suits them. Guitarist Dan “Sig” Wilson guides the 9 tunes from the chill opener “Runaway” all through to the epic closer “Flower”. In 40 minutes Dommengang stuffs as much heavy and hazy as you possibly can without it bursting.
Italian quartet Rancho Bizzarro brings heavy instrumental thunder with their latest, Four Dead Men (Argonauta). Reminiscent of acts like Russian Circles but with a dirtier desert vibe, they pay proper tribute to the likes of Sabbath and Brant Bjork. The riffs are sludgy as hell but there’s a melodic element that’s hard to miss. And plenty of groovy beats you can nod your head to start to finish. I guarantee you’ll want to play this as loud and often as you can.
Channeling serious Grace Slick influences in the best possible way, The Savage Blush’s latest offering Ether Dome (Wolf Bunny) blends all the great 60s/70s psychedelic sounds in a way that transports you back to that golden age. “Incantations” takes some cues from 13th Floor Elevators and Death Valley Girls with a punk-adjacent feel. From there things slow down with “Waltz for The Lonely”. “Euphoria” ramps things up and lets the band show their more stoner roots. It has this timeless sound to it where you’re not really sure when it was originally recorded, but fits in whichever era you fancy.
I’m always afraid that at some point the fine folks at Riding Easy Records are going to run out of all these forgotten gems to discover for their legendary Brown Acid series. Thankfully I’ve been proven wrong by way of their SIXTEENTH installment with just as much proto-metal/stoner-rock as you come to expect. And every one of them is fantastic. There are plenty of would-be classics from Cincinnati, OH (Nothing with their track “Young Generation), North Carolina (Brotherhood of Piece with “Feel the Heat (In The Driver’s Seat)”) and some new songs from previous contributors Attack, Mary Soski, and The Headstones. The Sixteen Trip of the Brown Acid series just proves that there is more gold out there if you’re willing to dig enough.