Music News


While the sounds of seven Harleys revving, six angels leaping and, of course, five pool cues to the head won't necessarily ensure that consumers will pay good money for the "experience," they are attention-getters. In the case of British bikers the Alchemysts, Zero Zen's opener, a feedback 'n' splatter instrumental called "Terranaut," fairly makes you dive under the billiards table to escape a beating. Unbloodied but most likely, ahem, bowed, you emerge after a spell, only to be confronted face to face with the most fetid, overdriven power trio since Blue Cheer smashed the Guinness Book's decibel record.

The Alchemysts have been together for more than a decade but still plow the unreconstructed hippie groove that's won over a diverse fan contingent previously weaned on Blue Cheer, MC5 and the Stooges -- these guys could teach Rage Against the Machine plenty about hirsute politico-rawk -- as well as free-psych proponents Sonic Youth, 13th Floor Elevators, Primal Scream and the right reverend John Coltrane. This, their third full-length (fourth, if you count a collaboration with Silver Apples guru Simeon), essays those far-flung influences and more, setting controls directly for the heart of the sun prior to steering off toward the expressway to yer skull. And in fact, while there are some clear and valid comparisons to be made with fellow stoner-rockers Nebula and Fu Manchu, such as the prehistoric "Rocket 69"'s barked/distorted vocals and no-nonsense two-chord stomp, a delicacy of purpose ultimately emerges from the din to suggest the presence of studious disciples of four decades' worth of psychedelia. To wit: The aquatic "Glass Cars" laps deliciously against the twin tides of woozy blooze and moody noir pop; "Your Summer Ghosts" is a miasma of backwards effects and serene Hendrixian riffs; and the '60s-ish tremolo-and-reverb-drenched "Gone" is equal parts Yardbirds rave-up, Thee Headcoats Beat-punk and Mudhoney skronk.

Psych's inducement to chemical enlightenment never lingers too far behind in the Alchemysts' world, either, as if a 15-minute slide through an interstellar wormhole titled "DMT Blues" doesn't signify exactly that. (No doubt labelmates Bevis Frond, also champions of old-school drug rock, push forward to the front row when this song turns up in the concert set list.)

"Spores," likewise, isn't hard to decipher, with lyrics like "Colours and shapes have changed again/Some better, some worse, but none are the same/The sky is not high enough for what we have in mind/Twisted yet beautiful -- you're one of my kind." Move over, Rover, let Paul, Mat and Jon take over. In short, the Alchemysts are neither thuggish nor polite, merely patrons of heightened-sense noise. If that means the listener occasionally takes the aforementioned billiard stick upside the noggin, that's just fine. It's a good kinda hurt. Plus, the stars you get to see are awfully pretty.

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Fred Mills