Psychic Heat are a band who are new to me. A four piece from Lawrence, Kansas (USA); they are, with apologies, from a place that I’ve never heard of before either. Mapping the band’s music, however, takes me into more familiar territory. According to the band themselves they “draw…inspiration from the British neo-psych pop scene of the 90’s to early 70’s experimental fuzz rock”, and I have to say that these days the term ‘psych pop’ often sets alarm bells of from me given the sort of music that PRs try to pass off as ‘psych pop’ these days. I would argue, however, that the bands influences are far wider than that.
In this case, however, I am glad that I got over my preconceptions and clicked on the link to here the one track from the album that is currently available: ‘In Two’. It hooked me straight away with it’s bass-led intro and the way it immediately opened out into a fuzzy and melodic song which had credentials that would validate the band’s view of itself. In short ‘In Two’ was catchy (there’s a term I don’t use often) and interesting enough for me to ask to hear the whole album, which I hoped would show a band who were able to take and expand this formula into something substantial.
I am pleased to say that this has proved to be the case. ‘Sunshower’ is a record that is takes in quite a few stopping points on the rock and roll express, and mixes them coherently to develop a sound that is often full and frantic. It is not one of those rock and roll albums that could have been made at any time during the last forty years, but it does have a certain timeless quality to it.
The LP opens with ‘Anxiety Eater’, which comes straight out of the blocks with a bluesy riff, a mid-tempo wall of sound that somehow eases you in while at the same time excites you to hear more, and more you certainly get with ‘Black Radio’. This is one of my favourite songs here. While ‘Anxiety East’ owes its provenance to the early 70s, ‘Black Radio’ is skewed much more firmly to the latter part of that decade with some punk and post punk guitar and a more garage rock sort of vocal and is much more of a precursor for the rest of the set.
‘Elixir’ is a far more nuanced track with a more percussive feel, mixed with the sort of baroque psych vocal that made me want to reach out for a Zombies album to play up next. Staying in the 60s ‘Here Again’ has a lovely authentic feel to it, reminding me of Manfred Mann’s classic ‘Pretty Flamingo…this is a good thing.
‘Things step up a gear with ‘Des Torsion’, much more of a pure garage track (like ‘How Many Licks, which comes up later); far more aggressive and out there this showed me that here was a band that could really rock out as well as playing more intricate and subtle music. While ‘Des Torsion’ just hits you right between the eyes and knocks you back and puts the aforementioned ‘In Two in better context as well, while ‘Whale Feeling’ keeps up the pressure with some great psych guitar work and an almost anthemic vocal which really gives the track a sense of elevation.
After ‘How Many Licks’ comes a short interlude, the onomatopoeic title track, leading into the grand finale of ‘Moment Moves On’. The longest track on the album at just over six minutes, this is for me the best on the album combining a beguiling bass line with some wonderfully sunny poppy (in the best sense of the word) guitar and a great organ riff that gives the song real texture.
‘Sunshower’ is well named as an album title because it suggests a mixture of textures and sounds, of light and dark. The resultant feeling is that of a sonic rainbow that is in turn raw and poppy. This is not an experimental album, nor is it a difficult album to listen to. What it is is an eclectic series of tracks which come together to celebrate some different moments in time in a way that is both contemporary and nostalgic.
Psychic Heat are:
Steve/Evan Herd (guitar, vocals)
Tanner Spreer (guitar, vocals)
James Thomblison (bass)
Mark Rockwell (drums)
‘Sunshower’ will be officially released on May 27th, but you can preorder your copy now at High Dive Records on limited edition green splattered vinyl, black vinyl and compact disc.