This week, stoner rock stalwarts The Warlocks released Skull Worship, their first album in three years. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard many people talking about the band, onetime signatures of legendary indie label Bomp! and creators of some of the best psych of the last decade. In fact, there’s a whole host of psychedelic bands that are all too frequently ignored; here are some of the genre’s most inexplicably overlooked acts from the past 50 years. And since psychedelia is a huge, expansive category full of hidden treasures, be sure to add your favorite deep cuts in the comments.
The Warlocks revolve around songwriter and guitarist Bobby Hecksher, and his six albums have included contributions from psych gods like Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum. The band has a pretty heavy discography, and there are a lot of great places to start, like the ironically sluggish “Cocaine Blues” (whose 11-minute video features a young, coked-out Rivers Cuomo) or sublime ’60s pop outtake “Baby Blue.” My favorite song of theirs is “Thursday’s Radiation,” which reads like a stadium version of Galaxie 500 and cuts like a knife.
English group The Telescopes have made a lot of fantastic noise-rock in their almost 25 years of recording, and they’re associates of both Bomp! and shoegaze holy grail Creation Records. A lot of their stuff is grungy and VERY loud, but in my opinion, they’re at their best when they’re dreamy. Their slower, druggier songs range from depressive epics like the “The Perfect Needle” to dream pop, with an occasional dash of bluegrass, as in “Celeste.” The ecstatic “Flying” is, bar-none, one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.
I wasn’t going to put any shoegaze bands on here, as a whole host of fantastic acts in that genre are constantly overlooked. Medicine, however, are in a league of their own. I’ve gushed about them here before, but I can’t understand why more people don’t listen to them, because Brad Laner can do some insane stuff with a guitar. Career highlights Shot Forth Self Living and The Buried Life are fantastically experimental psychedelic pop albums, and this year they released a new album, To the Happy Few. You might be familiar with Medicine if you’ve seen The Crow, where they perform an appropriately moody Robin Guthrie remix of their b-side “Time Baby II,” posted above in its original glory.
We’ve talked about the Silver Apples before, an egregiously overlooked ’60s electronic band that sounded both unmistakably of its time and way, way ahead of it. Silver Apples fans include musicians like Florence Welch and Portishead, the latter of whom sampled “Oscillations” for Third‘s “We Carry On.”
The Out Crowd
Guitarist Matt Hollywood was always the secret weapon of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and his short-lived band The Out Crowd was a great display of what he could do when he stepped out of Anton Newcombe’s gargantuan shadow. “Reptile,” from Go On, Give a Damn, is an excellent example of Hollywood’s witty songwriting, including the perfect couplet, “Don’t worry, I’m not made of glass / But babe, you could’ve shown some class.”
Matthew J. Tow of The Lovetones is one of this century’s best songwriters you’ve never heard of. He was responsible for two of the best songs on The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s And This Is Our Music, and his music with The Lovetones is just as stunning. Tow specializes in straightforward but powerful ’60s-influenced ballads, like the devastating “Wintertime in Hollywood.” His songs have a folksy power-pop vibe that Big Star fans might enjoy.
Speaking of Big Star, Alex Chilton was a fan of California pioneers The Seeds, and he went as far as covering their biggest song “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine.” The Seeds didn’t get all that much attention outside of their native California, though their reputation continues to grow almost 50 years after their founding. They should become even more well-known in 2014, when Neil Norman of GNP Crescendo Records will release a documentary about The Seeds called Pushin’ Too Hard.
The Morning After Girls
Along with The Warlocks and The Lovetones, Australian act The Morning After Girls are an example of just how rich the aughts were for neo-psychedelia. They’ve toured with big names like The Black Keys and The Dandy Warhols, and Mark Gardener of Ride even contributed vocals for their song “Fall Before Walking.” My favorite Morning After Girls track is the heavy, euphoric stunner “Always Mine.”
The Electric Prunes
Anyone who got name-dropped in LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge” is obviously well worth a listen for any music geek, and The Electric Prunes made fantastic psychedelic pop. They got a fair amount of attention in the ’60s and even appeared in such iconic American artifacts as Easy Rider and American Bandstand, but in recent decades they’ve been sadly ignored.
I don’t know how it happened, but mid-aughts post-punk outfit Viva K flew under practically everyone’s radar. No hyperbole: I have never met anyone who’s heard of this band, and it’s a damn shame, because they made raucous, yet glossy, electro-tinged psychedelic pop. Their sole, self-titled album is a rare example of diverse, chaotic songs that still manage to go together really well. Like too many other female singers, frontwoman Ween Callas was frequently likened to Siouxsie Sioux, but she’s got a frenetic energy that I can’t quite compare to anyone else. This is a really special band that deserves a second look. You can listen to all of Viva K on Spotify, and you should.
Guy Blakeslee is a psych eccentric who gives some truly arresting performances, and a recent stint as the opener for Flavorwire gods Spiritualized totally blew my mind.
Genesis P-Orridge is, without question, one of the the most exciting, experimental musicians of all time, but s/he gets a lot more attention for Throbbing Gristle than h/er psych band Psychic TV. Psychic TV have a sweeping, extensive discography, but their 1983 cut “The Orchids” is a good place to start. It’s a sweet, haunting song, and its references to gender become a lot more painful in the context of P-Orridge’s tragic, storied romance with late partner Lady Jaye.