The Upshot: Psychedelic blues and atmospheric rock from the twisted mind of Tex Perkins, who ain’t monkeying around.
BY FRED MILLS
Spain’s Bang! Records has never been shy about its affinity for the darker, bluesier, garage-tilting side of Australian rock, and Give In, the second full-length by Melbourne’s The Ape, is a perfect example. The group is headed up by Tex Perkins, who over the years has had more than a few moments of commercial prominence, most notably the Cruel Sea; early on there was also the indie rock supergroup Beasts of Bourbon, the scuzzy Butcher Shop, and the bluesy/rootsy Dark Horses. He’s joined by several veterans of the Oz scene who’ve played in bands like the Drones and Magic Dirt, and while the Seventies-tilting The Ape has clear echoes of Perkins’ previous outfits—in particular, his edgy vocal howl/sneer—it also charts new territory for this rock ‘n’ roll lifer. He’s not monkeying around.
With just six songs, Give In might be viewed as a mini-album, but the tunes are all pretty lengthy, especially the atmospheric, haunted, droning title track, which suggests classic Funkadelic’s more psych-tinged side (think: “I’ll Bet You” and “Maggot Brain”). “Chug” is more minimalist, all pulsing bassline, taut lead guitar licks and chanted vocal incantations. “Snort” is a dissonant, robotic soundscape that’s essentially an instrumental (the nominal vocals are more like distant wails than actual singing). And the dirge-like “On My Way” is just plain hypnotic, a trudging slab of psychedelic blues that could pass for a slowed-down Black Sabbath cover.
Throughout, Perkins commands the mic as if he’s a condemned man given a recording session as his last wish: resigned to his fate, he sonically slips his neck into the noose and reaches for the lever himself. As a compelling new chapter in the Tex Perkins musical journey, The Ape is the real deal. (And yes, we know we are at least a half-year behind with this review, release date-wise. But it takes awhile for vinyl to find its way across the ocean from Australia to Spain, and then from Spain to the United States. You don’t think we are gonna review some wussy digital stream or something, do ya? This is Tex Perkins we’re talkin’, not John Mayer!)
DOWNLOAD: “Give In,” “On My Way”