Comes right down to it, that hairy
hoary term psychedelic is getting to
be a pretty tired one, at least when attempting to do arty justice to the
plethora of new bands mining the weird gold of the great mind-bender bands
of the '60s and '70s, such as, say, the Dead or Jefferson Airplane or
Chocolate Watchband, etc., etc. And anyway, for L.A.'s veteran dark freaks
the Warlocks, among the first of the second wave of "psychedelic"
bands to make the scene in the '90s, all such terminology is way beside the
didn't live through that era," says Warlocks main man Bobby Hecksher. "We're
in 2009 and the term psychedelic is
very broad, a massive umbrella. Neo-psychedelia, third wave, so many bands
have the same inspirational things."
started his Warlocks in the late '90s after doing stints with a load of the
underground L.A. bands like Charles Brown Superstar and the Magic Pacer, as
well as collaborative stuff with Beck and
Brian Jonestown Massacre. Hecksher decided that his
Warlocks, in lineups that grew to number up to 10 or more players over the
years, would emphasize that decidedly threatening, garage-y side of the
psychedelic experience, the bad trip side, and for that drew inspiration
from the creepy old Velvet
Underground, most obviously, while soaking in the trance-inducing trips
of Krautrock kingpins Neu! and greasy space bikers Hawkwind. Albums like Rise
And Fall (Bomp!
the 65-minute Phoenix EP (Birdman/Mute 2003), along with the band's messily
transcendent live shows, gained them loud critical huzzas as the best and
most authentically gnarly of the neo-psychedelic herd.
band's new The Mirror Explodes on the ultra-righteous Teepee label comes after a sort of
shitty period businesswise and personally for the band, owing to their
former label Mute's increasing pressure on the Warlocks, of all bands, to
cheese up their sound to boost its commercial appeal.
"The band had been through a lot, touring for three
years straight," says Hecksher. "It got more complex, and more
money was involved, and things entered an orbit that was kind of crazy.
After years of that, everything gets rubbed down, you get screwed up."
"Worse than asking us to write hits," says
mustachio'd drummer Bob Mustachio, "the label wanted to change what
we'd already written. But whatever you've done, you've done it 行 make
dinner, write a song. It's worse than saying, `Can you cook this?' If I'd
known you wanted something else to eat I'd have made that; now you're
trying to fuck up my dinner."
the band refused to die, taking its own sweet time to get its records made
and playing live whenever the mood struck them, since their previous
incessant touring had wreaked wrath on the band's interpersonal affairs
and, basically, because they were tired of being told what to do. After
cutting down to a small core unit to record the very pop-market-accessible Surgery (Mute 2005), Hecksher changed labels to
Teepee and layed out 2007's ectoplasmic stoner epic Heavy Deavy Skull
The Mirror Cracked is a superb return to formlessness, drenched in
that losing-control menace that you know you crave, for whatever obscure
reasons. "Red Camera"'s drawn-out, ominous peals of dissonance
are, why yes, much like an acid flashback, a real, real bad one. "The
Midnight Sun" is dreamy, windswept, with a lovely melody buried
beneath an echoed-out descent into a very personalized hell.
Massive layering of guitars in every shard and scope 行 now
performed live by Hecksher and returning original member John Christian
Rees 行 give Mirror its Warlocks trademarked sound that's equal parts wicked
and innocent. In "Slowly Disappearing," one feels 行 as maracas
shift-shift and bass drum boom-booms, and a shivering, shimmering guitar
army prepares for war 行 this characteristically Warlockian yearning wisp through...of what can
be, can never be. In fact, with "There Is a Formula to Your
Despair" and "Frequency Meltdown," there is something beyond
a sense of fear...we're semi-existing together in a very grim afterlife. I
see hooded figures...
Meanwhile, the oddly cheering Mirror's grainily loose aggregate
of all the frightening, disastrous, dismal and generally messed-up sounds
that Hecksher has had rolling around in his otherwise cheerful head lo
these past 10 or so years is, he says, a sound custom-made for our bleak
it's a bad attitude to have," says Hecksher, "but it's really
hard for musicians to make music and put records out now. I just wanted to
make sure that I've done everything I wanted to do, to make sure that we
finished a period. And now that we've finished a period, we're really
excited about moving forward."