26 July 2019 (released)
26 August 2019
Psych rock is in the middle of a full-fledged revival. Ever since its birth in the '60s, various pockets have surfaced then submerged casting their influence on the rock acts du jour in different ways but right now the scene that is holding the integrity of rock n roll together is psych. For decades now “Alternative” has been an obsolete term for the genre it represents. Alternative to what?? These artists are now fully the mainstream with all the disingenuous repercussions with which that position comes. The same can be said for the indie genre. The once DIY spirit of the independent artist is long gone from the genre, now ubiquitous in commercials for laundry detergent and compact cars. You can pack those generic whistles and millennial whoops in a hatchback and drive them off a cliff.
Psych rock, however, has managed to keep its integrity more or less intact by maintaining a fiercely independent artist community and fanbase that continues to be difficult to nail down by the corporate powers that be. Anchored in Austin and San Fransisco and spread around the globe, psych-rock continues to churn out the most honest and creatively expanding music out there. San Fransisco power trio Drowning Effect encapsulates the rough garage rock ethos of their hometown brethren Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees mixed with the droney stomp of Austin psychonauts Black Angels, with a healthy dose of early Detroit proto-punk tossed in for good measure.
With 'The Reason', the Effect launch into the album with that open road psych-rock calling card: uncomplicated rhythm guitar to hypnotize, steady tambourine to drive and spaceship colliding with infinity guitar echoes to mesmerize. Vocalist Thad Baker's voice makes an Iggy Pop like entrance with a bellow coming down through distant airwaves to fuse with his fuzz-laden guitar. After a few verses on the run, that pesky spaceship tracks them down and engages them in a late-night high-speed chase through the redwoods.
We settle into the record with 'Holiday' a bouncy mid-tempo number that grooves on a chunky riff and a hearty solo. 'Electric Eyes' sinks us down further into shoegaze territory with a vibe that touches on Gish-era Smashing Pumpkins. Killing time on a Sunday drums are met with voltaic nostalgia guitar melodies and nimbly arpeggiated bass. A wave of satisfyingly mid-rich guitar washes over the track to induce a heady, sunbeam euphoria.
The latter half further embraces certain pop tendencies, finding catchy sing-along territory with 'Guided by Voices' which verges on indie rock with its straight forward quarter note strums and less manic vocals. 'Already Sold' plays off a fairly laid back backbeat but gives off an irrefutable energy due to Baker's barely containing the swells of feedback between each shifting chord. The track has that same loose but dangerous energy that kept the emotions of The Stooges Funhouse album bubbling at the surface. In a final homage to Reverend Pop, they deliver a faithful version of The Stooges breakout hit and song that plays between sets at damn near every rock show, 'I Wanna Be Your Dog'. Complete with jangling piano, pace-setting tambourine and pinning the meters guitars, Drowning Effect tear through the rendition with the vigour of a band who deeply understand the raw power that The Stooges tried to bottle with every song.
With their self-titled debut, Drowning Effect has made a rock-solid entry into the psych-rock community. An album that ebbs and flows but never loses its driving pulse. Hypnotic at times but never getting hopelessly lost in wild embellishment. Drowning Effect know how to unleash fury while keeping themselves tethered to the structure of a catchy tune. These psych rockers and their ilk keep rock 'n roll alive to see another day.