Thursday, February 28, 2008

Psychic Drive - "Cartoon Christ" EP (Riot US 2007)

I knew I had heard of "Lizzy" Lee Vincent before. It took me a while to bring it back, but really listening to the new EP from Psychic Drive finally jarred things back into place.

Evoking an atmosphere that The Jesus and Mary Chain and Echo and the Bunnymen, or even The Stooges and The Ramones, would be comfortable breathing, New York based Psychic Drive's Cartoon Christ ultimately is a logical extension of an earlier Vincent project called Birdland.

Birdland emerged from the Birmingham, UK music scene in the late 80's and made a brief splash on the other side of the pond, being widely compared to the four bands in the paragraph above. I stumbled across them in '91 or '92 accidentally as a college radio DJ - I don't remember what I was looking for in the "B's" that day, but I remember seeing their record and spinning it (I routinely forget where I'm going on my way to pick up my daughter, but I remember shit like this and the fact that Lee Vincent was a member of the band. God bless a mis-spent youth). The comparisons were apt ones, with more of an emphasis on the poppier side of things with just a shade of the swagger of The Stooges or The Ramones. Even though I was expending a lot of energy on the Amphetamine Reptile roster at that time (I probably saw The Cows every time they played in Austin in spite of the fact that I never liked them enough to buy one of their records) I've always been a sucker for post-punk Brit-pop. When you add the fact that the derision I received from some other DJs for liking Birdland made me an iconoclast among inconoclasts it was inevitable that I become a lifelong fan, at least for the next few weeks. I hadn't thought about them since.

Psychic Drive more evenly balances the pop sensibilites of Brit-pop with the swagger of Detroit or NYC. The production on Cartoon Christ is polished enough to emphasize the melody and structure of the songs without detracting from the Vincent's fuzz guitar attack, while Kristen Black and Connie Yin drive the rhythm mercilessly on bass and drums respectively. Vincent's vocals are comfortably out in front of the mix, and are equal parts Ian McCulloch, Jim and William Reid, and Joey Ramone. All of this is presented in songs which are all hook - the verses grab you, the choruses are fist pumping and sing-along friendly, and the middle eights are more than after thoughts. There's a distincly Phil Spector-ish element at work which, of course, is never a bad thing. Well, at least not in the context of pop music.

While you might get the impression from reading this that Psychic Drive is derivative, and in a way they are, it hardly counts against them. With the post-punk revival in full swing there can be an almost generic quality to many bands drawing from the same influences - a trap that Psychic Drive manages to avoid by just being so damn good at it. There's nothing wrong with wearing your influences on your sleeve as long as you're wearing them well.

This is a pretty short review, but it's a pretty short EP. Four tracks total - really three, as tracks 1 and 4 are two different version of the title track, the only noticable difference being one is a couple of minutes longer than the other. It's defininitely worth checking out. I'll be interested to see what these three do next. I'll also be interested to see if the current renewed interest in post-punk serves them as well as it should. They ceratinly deserve it as much, if not more, than a lot of the bands out there claiming the influence.

You can fing Psychic Drive at

3 out of 4 nostalgic middle aged bloggers.

No comments: