The Upshot: Motorik rock, ambient psych and hazy folk with druggy overtones – the new BJM, perhaps?
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Psychic Ills have always had a Rolling Stones-ish vibe. Like kindred souls the Brian Jonestown Massacre, it’s always seemed like the New York duo makes records that imagine what Keef and the boys would’ve sounded like had they expanded on Their Satanic Majesties Request. So it’s no real surprise that the Ills open fifth album Inner Journey Out with a pair of BJM soundalikes in the “Mixed Up Mind” and “All Alone.” Indeed, singer/songwriter Tres Warren, bassist Elizabeth Hart and their cohorts play in the same sandbox for a good chunk of the record – “Baby,” “Fade Me Out” and “No Worry” also have the same hazy folk rock core the BJM borrowed from the Stones’ druggier moments.
But there are plenty of signs that Psychic Ills isn’t a clone of an aspiration. The Fender Rhodes balladry of “Music in My Head” shows a degree of emotional vulnerability alien to Anton Newcombe (or Mick Jagger, for that matter), while the motorik beat powering “Hazel Green” gives the track both lightness and gravitas. “Another Change” adds soul backing vocals and steel guitar for distinction, while “I Don’t Mind” recruits Hope Sandoval for a Ills/Mazzy Star hybrid. The nine-minute “Ra Wah Wah” dives deeply into ambient psychedelia, and if it’s still not original, it’s certainly effective.
Let’s be honest: the BJM hasn’t hewed to its classic sound in some years, so why not let Psychic Ills take on the drug pop mantle instead? As this album proves, they were it well.
DOWNLOAD: “Hazel Green,” “Ra Wah Wah,” “Another Change”