Friday, March 13, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #17: The Urges!

The Urges

Psych Ward
Wicked Cool Records (US)

Although Psych Ward was released in Europe a almost a year ago on Germany's Screaming Apple Records, this release that has garnered so much praise both far and wide overseas is out on Wicked Cool Records and easily available in The States. Recorded at legendary Circo Perrotti Studios in Gijon, Spain by Jorge Explosion, who recorded Pittsburgh legends The Cynics latest offering Here We Are as well as releases from Billy Childish, Los Immediatos, and The Dee Rangers to name a few, Psych Ward is almost a purist's delight of '60s garage punk. Fuzz, psychedelic Farfisa, zombie howls, harmony vocals, you name it, it's here. In fact, Us Americans are now kind of late in our discovery of The Urges and their debut Psych Ward. Reviews from all over have hailed them as mistaken for a '60s garage punk band, leaders of the new generation of psych/punk, to the missing link between '60s garage punk and '80s Paisley Underground. Then again, that last reference is over two decades old. Since then, garage rock, garage punk, and many psych tinged manifestations on it have emerged with bands that are both backwards in their influences but forwards in their sound. However, The Urges sound like all of those things combined and fans leaning towards every angle are going to pick up on it.

The opening "Jenny Jenny" is a raw '60s Brit Beat number with lyrics that bear an eerie resemblance to "If I Ain't Got You" by The Len Price 3 - "Without you I'm just a ghost of myself" although with a bit more of a louder garage rock twang. However, theirs came out well before The Len Price 3. One might pick up traces of The Chocolate Watchband or The 13th Floor Elevators on "I Gotta Wait," but there are simultaneous traces of raw guitar much like early Stones and The Downliners Sect. The following track "You Don't Look So Good" lines up well next to The Wheels but adds more fuzz guitar, a stronger beat, and great harmonies. The Urges manage to break out some great surf guitar and a pretty strong Chesterfield Kings style farfisa melody, but the overall feels is still older and louder. "You're Gonna Find Out" is a tripped out mix of The Remains and even a touch of early Cynics. This sounds like an awful lot of "sound like" to stomach, but if you take parts of all of your favorite bands and put them together into one, The Urges could be it. "The 13th Floor" could be mistaken for a '60s garage psych classic, but somehow it's also a deeper rock lament that's both psychedelic but without some of the forgettable experimentation of early garage psych. One could guess that this what it sounds like when a garage punk tries something psychedelic. It's more urgent, compact, louder, and much more focused. "Salvaje" is a fuzzed out stomp that unmistakably could be The Mummies and throws in some great, ghouly Cramps laughs. Among the more straightforward songs is "So Uptight," which sounds a little too much like "Stepping Stone," only much better. "The Urges Theme" is a muted reverb, dark, surfy, echo laden song with some truly impressive tremolo and building beats.

I'm finding it really hard not to talk about every song on Psych Ward. Every song is packed with something great. One might hear The Seeds influence on "Out of Time" while others will hear traces of Mickey & The Milkshakes and The Electric Prunes. That's actually a fine example. Take your pick of something really good and you'll hear some of it, no matter what decade of the garage spectrum you lean towards. "Curse It All" is an all out surf romp that seems to cross territory into fast paced Irish pub and Russian drinking music. The guitar is fast and all out impressive, and the beat holds time with it just as frenetically. The last track is "Psych Ward." It's just as impressive as the rest, but heavier on the Electric Prunes styled delerium and the only "psychedelic" studio effect on the whole album thrown in at the end.

One could look at The Urges Psych Ward in two different ways. Before I start on the negative, I need to use the disclaimer that those who can do music do it, but those who don't succeed critique. One can easily narrow The Urges as a band who listened to their parents' record collection and all volumes of Nuggets religiously and studied them to come out with a sound that has all those influences without allegiance to a single one. As a result, It's great music, although not original. I beg to differ. As I've said before, don't listen to rock 'n' roll if you want to hear something original. It's rock 'n' roll! It's basic. Guitar, bass, and drums. The real truth is that great rock 'n' roll never gets old. If one combines great parts of 60's garage rock, garage psych, garage punk, zombie films, surf music, Paisley Underground, and everything else that's been out afterwards that's worthy of one or more of those labels and is good, it would sound like The Urges, but it's definitely original. Psych Ward has the fuzz of garage, the faster, sharper guitar of surf, the psych garage of Farfisa, but the youth, focus, and volume of garage punk. '60s garage purists, mod music fans, surf afficionados, psych rockers who want some good vocal harmony or melodic embellishment on guitar, and garage punks who want to hear loud wails and basic chords will hear ALL of those things in each song. In the end, you'll hear at least one thing you like in every single song; one thing that reminds you of another band that you really, really like, but different from them at the same time. This band sounds both like seasoned '60s garage staples AND loud, snotty punks with attitude. According to their bios, they had little to no musical experience. After listening to Psych Ward, one would find that really hard to believe. It's that fucking good.

Pysch Ward is essential garage rock perfection. Nothing else. In fact, the best way to appreciate it is with the the package deal of vinyl with the full length cd + bonus tracks for only $15. You can't beat that. Among them is "Don't Lead Me On", a slow tempo song that's full of guitar exchanges from Glen and Gary that range from almost delicate psychedelia to loud surf, intense vocal melodies, and Ross's bass that keeps the tune more deeply. It's a damn good vibe, but what's most noticable is the kind of airy sound that either has a vintage analog tape hiss or just the sound of a big room with a lot of empty space. It's pretty special. The other extra track is "Around and Around," a tune with a splendid garage punk beat, plenty of vox guitar sounds, and a little bit of fuzz to send it on. Since every track on the original release is great beyond belief, the extra tracks are essential. There's no slip ups or filler to be found with The Urges. These guys are the real thing.

SXSW Appearances

The Urges are putting down roots in Austin, Texas for a full seven days next week. There are plenty of opportunities to catch one of today's best rock 'n' roll acts. You should see them at least twice. You don't have any excuses.

Mar 16 2009 8:00p.m. Hole In The Wall w/Black Nite Crash & Lower Heaven Austin, Texas
Mar 17 2009 8:00p.m. The Red Scoot Inn w/ Choo Choo and Teen Sensations Austin, Texas
Mar 18 2009 4:00p.m. Sonny’s Vintage w/The Hall Monitors, The She Creatures, Broadfield Marchers, and friends Austin, Texas
Mar 19 2009 1:00p.m. Blue Velvet Vintage Day Party Austin, Texas
Mar 20 2009 1:00p.m. SXSW Antones - LSUG/Wicked Cool showcase Austin, Texas
Mar 20 2009 3:00p.m SXSW - BD Riley’s (Full Irish Breakfast) Austin, Texas
Mar 20 2009 8:00p.m SXSW Red Eyed Fly - LSUG/Wicked Cool showcase Austin, Texas
Mar 21 2009 6:00p.m. Spider House Café w/The Higher State & The Woggles etc Austin, Texas
Mar 22 2009 8:00p.m. The Fuzz Club w/The Cynics & The Higher State Austin, Texas

Free In-Store Thursday March 19, 2009 1-8pm


Party of the year!

Here's a cool cover of The Omens' "Searching."

"The Urges Theme." Utterly convincing.

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