Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Psychic Blood "Autumn Curses"
(Feeble Minds)

Here is some cranked up, youthful, shoegaze noise rock played at full throttle. Fans of Metz, the Swirlies or My Bloody Valentine will be able to get behind this.

At first I was about to dismiss this cassette as another Sonic Youth rip-off project played by rookies, but Psychic Blood is determined to stand out. Psychic Blood avoids becoming copy cat rock through pure aggression and determination. They don't have the ability to solo on end like J Marcis does in Dinosaur Jr. (thus separating that act from countless indie rock three pieces), but their songs have a maturity that is expansive and complex. The songs rise and fall, linger, drive and live in a state of constant flux for the most part.

There are a few exceptions. For example, there is a chord progression on the song "Tuff Luck" which is ripped right out of "(I got a) Catholic Block" by Sonic Youth. It is subtle because it sits between two different progressions, but it is still evident and distracting.

I know chord progressions and certain motifs are copied infinitely in the world of music. Study the history of the AMEN BREAK drum beat for a perfect example. But if you are going to copy a certain chord progression, at least present it differently by playing it with different tones. Maybe try the progression with a flanger as opposed to drenching it with reverberation like every shoegaze band in the universe does. Or doing it acoustically. Or try playing the progression through a non-traditional instrument. Whatever, just remix the music as opposed to redoing the music. Otherwise, the reviewer begins to question the integrity of the artist. My question when stuff like this is caught is "are you interested in progressing underground music or are you just in this to imitate your predecessors because you like them?". To be fair, the artists may not have known this progression prior to writing the song. In my own defense however, it is a fair critique when certain moments sound too much like lost B-Sides to classic indie rock albums like Sonic Youth's "Sister".

Another complaint I have is the vocals. This seems to be coming up a lot as I review tapes. Maybe it's just me and most people don't give a crap what people are saying. But I will argue there is a severe lack of focus today with rock bands when it comes to lyrics. What the hell is this vocalist saying on this cassette? It sounds like he's playing a game of chubby bunny. The vocals are atonal and don't congeal well to the shoegaze guitar. The vocals are passionate, growled and abrasive, so I do not question the singer's intentions, but they are distorted and reverberated into background noise. I don't pay attention to them. I suppose the album would feel lacking if they weren't there, but they also don't contribute a whole lot. A lyric sheet isn't bothered to be supplied.

This is a gnarly and good tape made by three guys who have potential. Hopefully these guys will stick around long enough to make some significant work. For now they'll have to settle being accomplished and solid. Psychic Blood's drive and ambition is ripe to blossom into innovation.

--Jack Turnbull www.jackturnbull.com

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