Independent Clauses (2/27/07)
Independent Clauses (2/27/07)
Best Element: A moody, dark indie-rock experience that draws from lots of genres perfectly.
First off, I must admit that I love Friendly Psychics Music. I love music collectives, I love prolific artists and labels, I love the DIY ethic and I love people who release music that matters to them despite what the greater populace may think, and Friendly Psychics is guilty as charged on all four counts. And it’s getting easier and easier to be in love with them, as each release they put out is better than the one preceding it. Thus is the case with Dishwater Psychics’ Dry Night Riverbed , which is without reservation or second thought the best album that Friendly Psychics has released.
The trick with Friendly Psychics is that, like all collectives, it’s built around a couple of key players. In this case, it’s guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist John Wenzel and bassist/lyricist Chris Jones. No matter who they’re playing with or what their title is, each release that FPM puts out shows Wenzel and Jones growing more and more mature as songwriters. From rolling psychedelia to fractured indie-rock to weary folk-pop, Wenzel/Jones have gone through it all. And on their latest outing, the aforementioned duo (with more than occasional player Dan Miller on guitars/backing vox/keys) put all of their influences together into something awesome.
Dry Night Riverbed takes the best influences of all those genres and combines them into a moody, dark indie-rock experience. The mood is extremely well cultivated (the psychedelia influence), the melodies appear in great number (the folk-pop) and the whole thing grooves with the strength of gritty guitars and propulsive drums (the indie-rock). It’s truly the full experience now, and a full palette of musical endeavors has finally been tapped into one canvas.
Considering that a great deal of the Wenzel/Jones catalog is the type of music that you have to focus on, mull over and listen to repeatedly, it feels almost like a reward to sit down to an FPM album. Not to say that nuance isn’t fun, but when the opening arpeggiated acoustic chords of “Decimal Jokes” are scored by a blast of guitar distortion and reinforced by a four-on-the-floor rock drumbeat, it’s exciting. The fact that the song hits, delivers its moody, angry message and quits is also a testament to songwriting growth. Gone are the unnecessarily drawn-out melodic sections. In fact, eight of the ten tracks on this album are under 3:30; I don’t know if this is truly a new improvement or if the improvement is the fact that every second of these tunes actually matters.
Even the dour vocals, which have been the major downside to FPM releases for as long as I’ve been reviewing them, are being used in ways that make sense. Standout track “Camp Oconda” features vocals prominently and effectively, allowing Wenzel to intone the memorable line “taking souls, and setting them on fire.” Given the dark indie-rock surroundings, it’s definitely one of the most soul-gripping moments I’ve heard in a while. It just hits.
It’s interesting to note that while “Camp Oconda” is easily a standout, it’s one of the two tracks that tops the 3.5 minute mark. Just more proof that the songwriting duo has finally figured out what is necessary in a song and what can go. There’s literally no fat on this album, and that’s definitely the first time that I’ve been able to say that of an FPM release.
The members of Dishwater Psychics have created a thoroughly and uniquely enjoyable album in Dry Night Riverbed . Dark, introspective indie-rock that doesn’t wig out into useless vamping or one-dimensional moping is tough to come by, and Dishwater Psychics have nailed it on the head here. Definitely one to check out.
- Stephen Carradini