Darkly Glimmering Psychedelic Garage Rock Brilliance from the Mystery Lights

by delarue

For the past few years, the Mystery Lights have built a devoted cult following for their shadowy, psychedelic garage rock. What differentiates them from every other bump-bump-BUMP-bump-bump, HEY band out there? They’ve got the trebly, reverbtoned vintage Vox amp sound down cold. Frontman/guitarist Mike Brandon delivers the requisite gruff, vintage soul-inspired vocals. But their songs are longer, and full of all kinds of interesting textures and touches you don’t usually find in bands who can ape everything on the original Nuggets compilation. What this band plays is a very old sound – yet they make it fresh and new and an awful lot of fun. They’re playing the album release show on June 24 at midnight at the Mercury; general admission is ten bucks. Then they’re off on US tour with fellow dark garage-psych band Night Beats.

Their debut full-length album isn’t out yet, so it’s not streaming at the group’s Bandcamp page, although fortuitously it will be available on vinyl. They go up the scale with a catchy four-chord progression to introduce the first song, Follow Me Home – with its creepy chromatic series of chords, Kevin Harris’ funereal organ and deft use of backward masking, it’s a cool update on classic 13th Floor Elevators. Drummer Noah Kohll’s flickering pulse underpins the lingering ultraviolet menace of L.A. Solano’s guitar as the band slowly makes their way through the ominous Flowers In My Hair, Demons In My Head, part Country Joe & the Fish, part late 60s Pretty Things, maybe.

Too Many Girls is funny, and pretty straight-up, in a Lyres/Fleshtones vein. Without Me is even catchier, a study in contrast between Alex Amini’s growling, melodically climbing bass and Solano’s mosquito lead lines. The stampeding Melt has a brooding flamenco tune at the center. The album’s best and darkest track, Candlelight, pairs moody minor-key organ against Brandon’s melancholy chromatic guitar lines – and then they take off on a breathless doublespeed sprint down the runway.

21 & Counting has an easygoing, swaying second-generation feel, like Rhode Island cult favorites Plan 9. Too Tough to Bear is the most trad, blues-based, Electric Music for rhe Mind and Body-type dirge here. Before My Own works the fuzztone sonics the band first made a name for themselves with. The album winds up with the uneasily swinging What Happens When You Turn the Devil Down, building to a machete thicket of guitar savagery.

On one hand, a lot of this is party music, but it’s just as enjoyable as late-night bedroom-floor or pass-out-on-the-couch music. Spin this record for a crowd of people who think garage rock is all cliches, and you’ll change a lot of minds.