Psychedelic rock is back in vogue these days. It seems those crazy twirling rainbow colors are collectively the new black. Alongside luminaries like Moby Grape and Beat Bizarre, indie darlings Dungen’s label-mates the Works are ushering in the Age of Aquarius part deux.
And what can I say — this is trippy shit, dude.
The Works aren’t just a band, they are spiritualists, mediums who channel the spirit of deceased bands that peddled drug-addled music during the Flower Power era. The Works are masters of heartfelt pastiche, taking the swirls, swells, runs and flourishes of the psychedelia genre, piecing together moving pictures of free love and acid trips. The music possesses a highly British centre, with the influences of post-druggie Beatles and always-druggie Eels making their mark felt. The conjurations even extend to the production, which is bathed in a hue of lo-fi, a retro aesthetic that summons the feel of Woodstock era.
It’s the historical reenactment society for hippies, if you will.
The Works’ eponymous debut is a bastion of psychotomimetic potency, the arrangements so intense that they bulldozed my mind into dizzy submission, reducing it to Silly Putty. Needless to say, the magic mushrooms are still stashed away.
Furthermore, the voice of Andreas Stellan is as kaleidoscopic as the music. He is an avid student of those World Peace days of yore, a proponent of the art of consuming hallucinations while spitting them out in all manner of freaky caterwauling. He resides at the top bend of his vocal range, his falsetto wail admirably matching the mind-bending intentions of the band’s lush whirlpool sonics. His voice successfully carries the sense of adventure that such consciousness-expanding efforts evoke, a personal guide into the vivid realm of bent and blown minds.
Highlights include “Time to Wake Up”, a gorgeous “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” type number, albeit slowed down in a purple haze, embellished with the layers of marijuana meanderings. Another is “Speak Your Mind”, a nice free-flow package of augmented piano riffs, deliciously distorted guitar histrionics and an overwhelming sense of atmosphere. “The Tale” is also one of the album’s noteworthy tracks, with the Works’ professional prog sensibilities on full display. Differing tempos, pitches and crescendos segue in and out, marinated with the now-familiar organ swells and octopus drumming. This is storytelling at its florid finest.
During the recent Live 8 concert, we saw the reunion of psychedelic legends like the Who and Pink Floyd taking centre-stage. If the Works were up there and I was blindfolded, there would have been no discernible difference between the bands. Unfortunately, this lack of originality is also the album’s biggest drawback. They are not artisans but craftsman, constructing reproductions that are faithful — almost to a fault — and yet offering nothing new. The Works really resembles a forgotten dusty psychedelic compilation of 1967’s Summer of Love.
And truth be told, if I needed a fix I would rather purchase some forgotten dusty psychedelic compilation of 1967’s Summer of Love at the local thrift store.