Friday, February 20, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #7: Garage Rock Legends The Chesterfield Kings!

The Chesterfield Kings

Psychedelic Sunrise
Wicked Cool Records

It ain't too new, but it ain't old. So goes good rock 'n' roll. Throw in some mid '60s Stones, the larger than life early '70s sounds of The Who, add the feedback and psychedelia from The Byrds, add a little weirdness from The Electric Prunes, invite Roky Erikson and the ghost of Syd Barrett, then add the energy and volume of The Ramones, and maybe it will add it up to The Chesterfield Kings latest gift to rock 'n' roll, Psychedelic Sunrise. These guys have been around about 30 years forever but are also up and coming 30 years young. They have cult band rock status, but a new lease since Little Steven picked them up, got them the exposure they always needed and deserved, then set them free in the studio to rock, shake, fuzz, and freakout the world. Psychedelic Sunrise is the second platter released on Wicked Cool Records. We all should be thankful for it.

Lead vox Greg Prevost has always had this semi-gutteral voice without much tone, but it's always sounded damn cool. I always loved the decisiveness of his lyric "Out in the darkness, I light my cig-uh-rette" from "I Don't Understand" on 2003's The Mindbending Sounds of The Chesterfield Kings, which was also reissued to much better reception in 2006. That's only proof that The Chesterfield Kings had to wait for the world to catch up to them. The first thing you notice about Psychedelic Sunrise is it sounds BIG. The opening "Sunrise (Freak OUt)" tells you to get ready for something huge and then it hits like the first song at a gig where the band makes their presence known in a larger than life sort of way. Claves on a rock 'n' roll song? Why not? It's just a little touch that makes you think "Wait a minute. This is pretty damn cool." Psychedelic Sunrise is the inevitable outcome of letting loose four serious rockers into a studio toystore full of instruments to play with. On the music credits, each band member plays between 7 to 12 instruments. It's not Smile, though. It rocks and swings too hard to sounds multi-instumental prog/arty. Lucky for us. It gets down and dirty basic with the channeled "Jumpin' Jack Flash" swagger of "Up and Down" and sounds just as cool and groovy. No one can be really sure what they were going for on "Rise and Fall," but you'll probably end up swinging your grog back and forth to it. There's also the baroque swoon of "Inside Looking Out." I'm not much for string arrangements, but we can allow them the indulgence as part II of "My Sweet Lady Jane." They make it work somehow.

One's not going to be able to help drawing parallels on "Spanish Sun" to "Paint it Black." Who cares? It rocks. Besides, Brian Jones rocked on a sitar and so can The Chesterfield Kings! Mike Boise's wall of sound drumming gives the song a little more thunder than it's inspiration. Through all the big sounds, multiple instruments, a few tape effects, multiple hand held percussion instruments, Vox and Hammond organs, a dulcimer (???), and just about everything else that the vans got overloaded with from raiding the high school music room, Psychedelic Sunrise plays like a good 'ol dirty blues rocker that's as much at home in Muscle Shoals or New Orleans as it is in a club in New York or even better, at some outdoor festival in Europe, which like many great rock 'n' roll bands, The Chesterfield Kings have always enjoyed better success in Europe since there's less of a genre barrier and according to many, including The Chesterfield Kings themselves, a greater enjoyment for just rock 'n' roll. The Chesterfield Kings have always drawn comparisons to The Rolling Stones. This is a well earned and deserved compliment and not a generalization since The Stones embraced the heavier Delta Blues sound to make their music a little less clean but more appealing. This approach is perfected on "Stayed Too Long" with it's boogieing piano and outrageously Ron Wood inspired riffs. Good Stuff! You just listen to it and think "Yeah, that's it." They slow down and give a stronger blues treatment on "Gone," but the added organ and '70s classic rock guitar solo give an old approach something new. Even with the southern influences, The Chesterfield Kings and fuzz guitar have always been inseparable terms. They give us a heaving dose of it on "Outtasite!" that lives up to its name- "That's hip, that's cool, that's great, it's outta site, yeah!" The acid rock tinged "Yesterday's Sorrows" that's loud but just trippy enough to put you in London's UFO Club in the mid '60s for a few minutes. But it's all about the rock 'n' roll. "Dawn" is a raunchy howl of a track to end Psychedelic Sunrise, but a confusing in sequence since dawn comes before sunrise.

The second release by The Chesterfield Kings on their Wicked Cool Records, Pyschedelic Sunrise is unashamedly steeped in better known rock influences. There's a lot more to it, though. The best rock 'n' roll, including The Rolling Stones and other legendary acts, was made from mixing a bunch of previously independent influences into something new. That is what they're known for. Rock 'n' roll itself is a mix of blues, r&b, soul, gospel, country, and some other far off influences to varying degrees. It's not an original form of music in and of itself. Most great rock bands have those influences that are easily recognized. That makes great rock 'n' roll. Psychedelic Sunrise is exactly that. Nothing less, but a lot more because it's rock 'n' roll that's tied and true and it's damn fun. In the end, that's really what it's all about and therefore, Psychedelic Sunrise is a quintessential rock album since it's rooted but is good enough to be timeless.

The best way to get the full effect of Psychedelic Sunrise is on vinyl. Additionally, the fine people at Wicked Cool Records the vinyl with the full length CD, which includes four extra tracks. Among them is they heavy, sitar soaked, psychedelic drone of "The Angels Cry", which builds into a full on, stereophonic experience that definitely feels like a trip. This is followed by the equally hallucinogenic drenched "The Wrong Place To Hide", which has great multiple climaxes of full on blues/psych rock. Another surprise is "Stop! Hey! Take A Look Around", which is definitely among their strongest songs built with great, full band vocals, and a strong leaning towards both the jangling trademark of The Byrds, which is not surprising given the lyrical homage to Buffalo Springfield, but also has a foot in more textured neo-garage psych. The final "There's A Time" has a it of a dark sound, but that's quickly forgotten with the interplay of two lead guitars, one of which develops a violin like sound, along with great organ and a deeper beat that would have made made the original garage/psych pioneers feel at home, but wish they could have participated in it. Altogether, the extra tracks a little "trippier" than the original 12 tracks, but at times, more involving. The whole picture of Psychedelic Sunrise is incomplete without the extra songs, which are all dense, hypnotic and highlight a band at their creative peak, where they can draw from all of their influences and come up with something a lot more intense. If anything, The Chesterfield Kings have their own trip going and demonstrate that they can create super heavy psych rock that's still rock 'n' roll, but takes us to a few more places than one would expect.

SXSW Schedule:

Mar 20 2009 1:00P - UG Showcase, The Magical Mystery Mondo Matinee
Antone’s (SxSW) 213 W 5th St, Austin, Texas 78701

March 20 2009 8:00P - Wicked Cool SHOWCASE, Cowboy Angels And Gypsy Pirates A Go-Go
The Red Eyed Fly (SxSW) 715 Red River St, austin, Texas 78701

Up and Down

Stayed Too Long

Chesterfield Kings - Stayed Too Long

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