Why haven’t I heard of You’re Smiling Now But We’ll All Turn Into Demons (hereafter known as ‘Demons”) before? It’s not that they haven’t got a memorable name after all (the name apparently comes from a TV programme about women wrestlers in Japan). Add to this the fact that the band has been going since 2002 and I’m beginning to feel seriously out of the loop.
Of course, it could be that Demons are a pile of old crap who have been peddling all sorts of generic landfill Indie/ metal/ outdated nonsense to an ungrateful audience and media for the last decade or so. Well on the evidence of this re-release of the band’s 2009 album Contact High Wit Da Demons, this is absolutely not the case. It is rather that the band’s lack of exposure is little short of criminal, and I for one would like to thank his eminence Cardinal Fuzz for helping us to see the error of our ways and presenting us with this gift of reverbrance.
Looking back it is possible to see how Demons failed to get the recognition they deserved, after all the renaissance of psychedelia, and the fuzz guitar in particular, is a relatively recent thing. Ty Segall seems to have effortlessly brought Fuzz to the psych scene in the last year, and bands such as The Janitors and Cult of Dom Keller seem to be getting due recognition for their own brand of heavy psych, and even bands such as Dead Meadow have reformed with their original line-up; so it is surely time for Demons who, in places, remind me of all of these (or is it vice versa), to get reassessed.
In some ways this is the only psych/ fuzz/ guitar/ stoner rock album you’ll ever need simply because it covers an awful lot of bases, including an 18 minute jam from the original release, and a further 13 minute one on this vinyl double album. So is it eclectic or is it genre specific? Well both. It is certainly a showcase for how varied psych music can be, but by the same token it is not straying too far away from the fold either. Much of this might describe why few paid attention to this Portsmouth bands’ third lp. Maybe it wasn’t focussed enough. Maybe the world just wasn’t ready for it. Maybe, just maybe, it is now. It should be especially since the intervening five years have seen a big change in attitude to psychedelic music, so maybe the time has come for this behemoth of an album to begin to get the credit and attention it deserves. Here’s why.
The album opens with a barrage of feedback from which a classic fuzz-rock riff emerges as ‘2009’ bangs into action. And that riff just keeps on going, returning time and again as the track moves up through the gears into a great climax of distortion, ending with one last emphatic play of that riff that leaves the listener begging for more.
‘Nervous/ Alive’ is a more melodious number, but still with tons of reverb and wah wah, and sees the band move into stoner territory something which, if anything, is even more the case with ‘Alpha and Omega’ which could have been taken from Dead Meadow’s great first eponymous release. It’s a brilliant slow heavy psych track which shows a band on top of their game. You get the feeling that Ty Segall must have been listening to this album when he was working on his Fuzz project, especially tracks such as ‘The Recidivist’ and ‘Great Shakes Baby’ which are just superb, well, fuzzy guitar tracks – the latter with a hint of early Queens of the Stone Age in it.
‘Jammin’ on the 13th Floor’, however, gives some greater variety to the album, it is a much cleaner number with the distortion and feedback turned right down. It’s kinda like Gane and Sadler from Stereolab walked into the studio to have a bit of a jam. It’s a really good diversion and the sort of cleanser that the album needs before normal service is resumed again. The first disc of this double vinyl package ends with Cruickshanked which trades reverb with squalls of distortion, a fairly low key ending to this part of the set, and were it the last track it might be a disappointment. But it isn’t.
What comes next is as amazing as it is unexpected. ‘Prismatic Reflections’ is an eighteen minute monster of a track which begins quietly enough with a lilting wah wah riff which starts to build very slowly through the first five minutes. It draws you in and then, at around six minutes things begin to change, and a far more sinister distorted guitar replaces the wah wah and you sense that it’s time to strap in for a ride. From there layers of guitar are added, each more fucked up than the next with the band reaching something of a plateau at around ten minutes. From the things just get heavier and heavier and faster and faster and more and more distorted until returning to the same feedback that began the album what seems like an age ago as if we evolved, looked round, decided against it and returned to the swamp.
The second disc concludes with an equally fine long jam, The Plague, which, as far as I can see, didn’t appear on the original album but is a fitting addition here.
Along with Mugstar’s ‘Sun, Broken’ (also a Cardinal Fuzz re-issue) this is my release of the year so far and I am really making up for lost time by listening to little else at the moment. Not just a great album but a genuine heavy psych stoner classic.