The phrase psych rock has been misconstrued for a while now, where many bands that get called psych are far from actually being psych. For us, psych rock is the feeling that you’re being surrounded by mystical beings, the keys and the guitars are soaked in pedals that make you feel hazy and the vocals sound like they’re coming from a distanced place. On their debut album Living In Disguise out this Friday, Flower Graves embody those feelings and more. Without sounding dated, the four piece takes you into a place that’s far from your speakers, where all of the animals are as colorful as the sounds they create.
The key element to great psychedelic rock is tone. While tape delays and a Uni-Vibe pedal can make any mediocre band have the sound of a decent psych rock band, they’re nothing without great tones, which this album contains loads of. The opening track “Mystic Signs” sets the stage for what will be an experience far beyond where Hendrix took us on his debut album. The song has these traditional rock elements underneath a starry-eyed haze of multiple vocals, organ based melodies and tone soaked licks. The vocals coming through what sounds like a bullhorn don’t hurt, though it’s the tone of all these elements that makes the song stay with you. It’s a jam that stays on track, a rabbit hole where you can see the other side, but you really don’t want to climb out of either.
That’s essentially the way the rest of the album plays out here. The album’s title track “Living In Disguise” touches on moments that embody so much of what early British shoegaze was attempting to be. The pure rock nods shouldn’t be lost on anyone, though it’s more how that rock vibe intertwines with distanced vocals, doo wop elements in the backing vocals and a dance between the organ and the drums. The innocence in the tones of “Sea Of Clover” embody so much of a sound that doesn’t exist anymore without lifting anything from someone prior. And the brooding and almost tribal notes of “Night Byrd” should make anyone who hears the track get ready to meet the shaman for instructions on how to reach the other side.
But with all of that psychedelia, the album shines just as bright when it takes turns away from traditional psych rock to make the band stand out even further. The Samba touches of “La Playa” could exist on any Bossanova or Tropicalia record from fifty years ago or even from fifty days ago. Maybe it’s that Southern charm seeping through, maybe it’s a Latin influence that the band picked up from another place, or perhaps it’s that they’re on a different wavelength than everyone who took a stab at this genre before them. The biggest stand out of the record is “Plastic Orange” because it’s a psych track, but it’s also so much more than that. With a slower pacing, the tones are heavier, there’s a breathable mysticism to the song that hasn’t existed in psych rock since the genre started to rise again in the nineties. Whatever Flower Graves is drinking down in Texas, it’s something that every modern psych band could use a sip of.
Living In Disguise will be available to stream when it gets released Friday July 12, it can be pre-ordered digitally from all online music retailers or pre-ordered physically directly from Wallflower Records. Flower Graves will be appearing at Continental Club on July 12 in Houston, TX.
Image Credits: Photo by Daniel Jackson.