Radio Moscow’s Live in California – Best Heavy Psych Album of the Year
Guitarist Parker Griggs echoes Hendrix in the purest sense possible, faster than you can say “Frank Marino.” Hendrix was a noisy player, and so is this guy. He takes a whole bunch of ideas springboarded by Jimi – playing off a root note a full step below the octave; letting a phrase bleed out in a pool of hammer-ons, leaving the natural reverb all the way up, and doing all sorts of deviously trippy things with feedback – without being blatantly derivative. The band’s titanic new double gatefold album, Live in California, is streaming at youtube. As heavy psych sounds go, there’s nothing that’s been releasd in 2016 that can touch this.
Radio Moscow also distinguish themselves with a surprisingly nimble rhythm section. Where other metal bands plod, bassist Andrew Meier and drummer Paul Marrone swing, hard. The album’s opening track, I Don’t Know echoes Hendrix but with three times the amp firepower and tighter rhythm – where Jimi would stretch his strings to the point where he needed his wammy bar to stay in tune with himself, Griggs works a savagely tremoloing lefthand on the fretboard: somewhere Jimmy Page is drooling with envy. The song’s trick ending on the way out adds a cool touch.
Death of a Clown – an original, not the vaudevillian Kinks classic – opens with lightning upper-register clusters and unhinged solar flare riffs, a galloping Purple Haze of a psych funk tune. The guitar trills at the end are precise, but not so much that Griggs can’t fly completely off the handle when the time comes. Broke Down takes a turn toward vintage Sabbath, echoed by Marrone’s trailing lines, up to a lysergically fried doublespeed wah boogie.
I Don’t Need Anybody kicks off as a turbocharged Train Kept A-Rollin’ shuffle, Griggs’ acid blues anchored by trebly, distorted fuzz bass that eventually mingles with the guitar’s low strings. 250 Miles Brain Cycles, a blues, comes across as a joint homage to Hendrix’ Machine Gun and Meddle-era David Gilmour, then hits a sick boogie peak with divebombing Are You Experienced sonics. The flurry of crazed blues about 6:45 in is worth the cost of the album alone.
Before It Burns has catchy Foxy Lady riffage matched to a heavy Nektar drive – the screaming sheets of guitar sound like the acid is really kicking in hard here. Then Griggs backs off into Middle Eastern territory for a bit, over a Caravan bassline. The trip continues through rises and falls, an echoey, suspenseful interlude over growly bass as the drums tumble around a little back, up to a screaming peak and a sudden, cold ending. It leaves you breathless.
The Escape sounds like the James Gang as Hendrix might have done it, with those crazed accents at the end of the riff. City Lights is punctuated by searing fuzztone leads. Griggs really cuts loose with the leaps, screaming harmonics, divebomb effects and a nasty tremolo on Chance of Fate, one of the best and wildest tracks here. Then the band takes a detour into slowly swaying acid blues with The Deep Blue Sea.
The hard-charging, vamping These Days is one of the catchiest tracks in the set, taking the energy back up to redline, even when the band goes halfspeed during a break that gives Griggs a launching pad for some of his most pyrotechnic bluesmetal work. Thee follow the scampering boogie Rancho Tahoma Airport with the album’s most epically psychedelic track, No Good Woman, rising and falling with Griggs’ most echoey, deep-space work here. The trio close out the show tersely and emphatically with the hammering, funk-tinged riffage of So Alone.
What are the best chemicals for experiencing this album? Good acid or mushrooms, obviously; good weed too. For purposes of coming up with evocative descriptions of the tracks, an evening of black russians did the trick. As the fifth of vodka got closer and closer to empty, the trajectory of the album matched the mood – these guys definitely programmed this show, and this album, to be a party.