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Another Scorching, Dark Psychedelic Record From the Electric Mess

Over the last few years, the Electric Mess have established themselves as one of the best dark, punk-influenced psychedelic rock bands around. Plans for a release show for their latest and fifth album, The Electric Mess V got knocked off the calendar by the coronavirus scare. But you should hear it – when it’s online – if sizzling fretwork and retro sounds are your thing.

They set the mood immediately with Too Far, frontwoman Esther Crow and lead player Dan Crow’s guitars building a slinky, shadowy 13th Floor Elevators intertwine along with Oweinama Blu’s organ, Derek Davidson’s bass snapping over Alan Camlet’s drums.

Bad Man could be a minor-key midtempo Girls on Grass tune, Dan’s guitar scrambling and searing up to a vicious tremolo-picked peak. Like a lot of these songs, the loping Last Call has bits and pieces of a lot of classic psych influences, in this case the Doors and Plan 9.

Cesspool is a briskly surreal mashup of Chuck Berry and new wave, followed by City Sun, the band working catchy four-chord major/minor Elevators changes punctuated by a couple of searing Dan Crow solos. Then they shift to abrasively riffy Fun House-era Stooges territory for Speed of Light.

In Laserbrain, the group add some lingering haze to the layers of guitar textures along with some tasty vintage McCartney-esque bass from Davidson. Before the World Blows Up – how about that for a good song title right about now? – could be Radio Birdman taking a stab at 60s Vegas noir pop…or the theatrical hit the Doors should have used to open The Soft Parade.

“Take no counsel from your captains of war,” Esther warns in Strange Words, which in a way is the most hypnotic track here. The albums winds up matter-of-factly but somberly with the brooding Laurel Canyon-style After the Money’s Gone, awash in tremoloing funeral organ and spare, jangly guitars. It’s a little premature to think about anything other than survival right now, but if there’s enough reason to put up a best albums of 2020 page here, look for this one on it.

More Searing Psychedelic Garage Rock From One of NYC’s Best Bands

Is this the great long lost Radio Birdman album? The Electric Mess don’t sound exactly like menacing Australian garage-psych legends, but the resemblance is luscious. If relentless punk cynicism, scorching fretwork, jugular-slashing pickslides, overdriven vintage tube amp sonics and wickedly purist, oldschool rock tunesmithing are your thing, you need to know this band. Their new album The Beast Is You is streaming at Bandcamp. They’re playing Coney Island Baby (the old Brownies/Hifi Bar space) on July 25 at 9 PM; cover is $12.

Their previous album House on Fire was a little heavier on the psychedelia; this one is leaner and more stripped down. The production is delicious: you can practically smell the scorch of vinyl insulation from the back of the amps, and the rhythm section are back in the pocket where they need to be, guitars and vocals out front with funereal organ tremoloing overhead.

The album’s opening cut, Disconnected kicks off with Alan J. Camlet’s machinegunning surf drum intro, hits a vampy 60s garage rock drive followed by a searing Dan Crow wah-wah guitar solo and a trippy early Pink Floyd interlude before the band blast out at the end. That’s about as ornate as the band’s songs get this time out.

‘I’m gonna crash about fifteen cars,” frontwoman Esther Crow announces as We’re Gonna Crash gets underway, Oweinama Biu’s jet-engine organ over the slashing guitars, looming bass and  four-on-the-floor GTO drums. Dan Crow pulls out his wah pedal on the launching pad again.

The snidely propulsive I’m Gone blends eerie Ray Manzarek organ, space acid Chris Masuak guitar and a kiss-off message directed at some kind of religious nut or new age freak. With twin guitars flinging bits and pieces of chords into the bonfire and Derek Davidson’s bass slithering upwards, the wry outer-space anthem You’re My Overdrive wouldn’t be out of place on Radio Birdman’s iconic Radios Appear album.

The guitars take that incendiary, chromatically bristling attack even higher in Snow Queen – Dan Crow’s cruelly spiraling, Deniz Tek-ish lead break is one of the album’s high points. The band keep the assault going in the gleefully apocalyptic No One Gets Out Alive; Dan’s tantalizingly brief solo sets up an unexpectedly funny vocal outro.

Seems like they turn up the reverb a little higher the title track, arguably the album’s most searingly tight number, Davidson’s bass building toxic waste bubbles underneath the guitars’ roar and slash. Then they get the wahs going again in You Can’t Hide, the most Stoogoid number here. “Let me your sloppy seconds, baby,” Esher leers over the organ’s evil oscillations. “Let me clean up every mess you make, I’ll keep away the promises you break.”

Things start to get a lot more eclectic starting with the Plastic Jack, which edges toward janglerock a la Plan 9. Fueled by retro organ, the regret-heavy It Happens All the Time is a rare midtempo garage rock number, while Mystery Girl is surprisingly Beatlesque.

Starry, Doorsy organ swirls through the pulsing vamps of Read You Your Rights; the band close out the album with Yes Future, a glamrock tune. House on Fire ranked high on the best albums of 2015 page here; check back at the end of the year for the 2017 list!

The Electric Mess Headline a Kick-Ass Triplebill at Union Pool on Thursday

The Electric Mess distinguish themselves from the legions of garage rock imitators out there in a lot of ways. For one, they have a heavier, more Detroit- and Australian-influenced sound. Much as they’ve got the swirly Farfisa organ and the stomping rhythms, they aren’t just recycling old riffs: you know, one-one, FOUR-FOUR, one, chucka-chucka-chucka, repeat for two minutes thirty seconds. And where most bands are lucky to have a single strong songwriter, the Electric Mess have three: singer/percussionist Esther Crow (aka Chip Fontaine), savagely Deniz Tek-influenced guitarist Dan Crow and bassist Derek Davidson. They’re headlining a good triplebill at 11 at Union Pool on Jan 29 that starts with retro 60s soul band the Jay Vons at 9 followed by the catchy, jangly all-female Party Lights. Cover is eight bucks.

The Electric Mess also make excellent albums. Their latest one, House on Fire is streaming at Bandcamp. Guitarist Crow’s Better to Be Lucky Than Good opens the record: it’s sort of a less frantic take on what Radio Birdman was doing with Aloha Steve & Danno, the sonic attack anchored by Oweinama Biu’s tremolo organ. The catchy, barely two-minute title track sounds like a Steve Wynn song if he’d been recording back in the 60s. Another Birdman-style sizzler, Beat Skipping Heart ponders the impact of a girl who’s both a “biscuit roller and a barrel stack.” The album’s best track, Winding Stairs pairs a swaying, brooding four-chord minor-key verse with a bittersweetly anthemic chorus. And the longest number here, Every Girl Deserves a Song, draws a jaggedly druggy line back toward the MC5 with diversions through acid-scarred Stooges wah psychedelia and Brian Jonestown Massacre hypnotics.

Esther Crow also contributes three songs. The first is the Brill Building garage anthem She Got Fangs, with its droll Hendrix quotes – does the Brill Building have a garage? In the basement, maybe? The second is Leavin’ Me Hangin, which with Craig Rogers’ pummeling surf drums sounds like a mashup of the previously mentioned Birdmen and the Fleshtones. The last one is Lemonade Man, a twisted stalker’s tale.

Davidson has five songs on the album. She’s Got Something to Say is like a tighter version of Them; Get Me Outta the Country is a galloping mashup of Blues Magoos and Reducers. The ominously vamping There’s Nothing You Can Do offers a tip of the helmet to a certain Radio Birdman classic, while The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave is a kiss-off to noodge. Davidson’s final track here is You Never Come Around Anymore, which wouldn’t be out of place on a Plan 9 album from that band’s peak era back in the 80s. Fans of this era’s best garage and psychedelic retroists like the Allah-Las will love this band.