Reviews Column 53: Psychedelic Prog

Given that prog sprang from the psychedelic era, it’s only natural that the two continue to feed off each other.

Pick of this month’s ravenous batch is Australian septet King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Forget the daft name, just wrap your ears ’round I’m In Your Mind Fuzz (Heavenly), their fifth album in three years. At heart they’re a bunch of bolshy garage punks, disciples of Nuggets and Pebbles, but what sets them apart is how they churn it all into psych-jam epics that make your ears sting and heart race.

Equally breathless is the self-titled debut from Meatbodies (In The Red), a Californian bunch led by Chad Ubovich. A product of LA’s fertile garage-rock community, Ubovich – bassist in Ty Segall side project Fuzz – disgorges lots of primitive riff’n’roll, heavy on distortion, loud as hell and swimmingly lysergic. Segall makes an appearance on drums.

He also crops up on For The Recently Found Innocent (Drag City), the sixth effort from White Fence. This one finds Tim Presley’s West Coast outfit tart up the slightly ramshackle nature of their previous work by applying a sheen of vintage Anglodelica. It’s clearly the product of a man who still holds a torch for the power-chord pomp of The Who and The Creation: layered guitars, dreamy interludes and plenty of Marquee‑patented flash.

Those wishing to completely throw their arms around the 60s might be better directed to All In A Dream (Sunstone), the unashamedly retro work of Swiss one-man band Balduin. The fact he covers an obscure gem by Boeing Duveen & The Beautiful Soup shows his psych-pop credentials, while the mellifluous songs make liberal use of harpsichord, sitar, Wurlitzer, tabla and all kinds of druggy echo. At times it can seem a little too fey for its own good, though whimsical tunes like Mirror Mirror or the Left Banke-ish The Music are fine confections.

The sleeve of Stealing Fire From Heaven (Ritual Productions), a vivid splash of art from surrealist giant Max Ernst, suggests that the sound of 11 Paranoias might be flooded with colour, too. Instead, they offer an altogether doomier take on psychedelia, the trio’s compositions preferring to crawl along to ploddy grooves caked in fuzz. The mood is almost relentlessly oppressive, underscored by vocals that feel more like ritual incantations than anything else.

Meanwhile, My Drunken Haze’s eponymous debut (Inner Ear) finds the Greek five-piece – led by guitarist/composer Spir Frelini – mixing buzzing guitar noise with deft hooks and otherworldly dream pop. Matina Sous Peau’s vocals are beautifully understated as a nu-psych storm gathers around her, echoing the overriding concept of a woman caught in a voyage of self‑discovery. For a perfect primer, head straight to the seven‑minute corker Pleasing Illusions.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.