Roky Erickson (w/Okkervil River) – True Love Cast Out All Evil

January 01, 1970

(Anti-)

 

www.anti.com

 

After 45 years,
the third shoe has finally dropped. Roky Erickson’s first new album since Bill
Clinton moved into the White House, puts an exclamation point to a tale of
personal redemption for the Austin, Texas, native, a saga that has seen enough
twists and turns to serve as the backbone of a major motion picture. Whether
the film ever happens (at one point, Jack Black was said to be interested in a
Roky biopic) remains to be seen, but the long-rumored, new recording from Roky
Erickson, now backed by Austin-based indie-rock hotshots Okkervil River, has
finally seen the light of day.

 

Whatever
longtime devotees may have been expecting to come next when Erickson, backed by
longtime pals the Explosives, played a short set at Threadgill’s Ice Cream
Social in Austin
in 2005, this probably isn’t it. Nevertheless, True Love Cast Out All Evil (Anti-) is a total mindblower.

 

The first brogan
hit the deck for Erickson when the banshee howl and electric jug-fueled
psychedelic madness of his 13th Floor Elevators scaled the national charts in
1966 with “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” After a series of devastating
albums that included The Psychedelic
Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators
and Easter
Everywhere
, Erickson found himself committed to Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in
1969 to avoid a long prison sentence for possession of a small amount of
marijuana. Two years later, Erickson left Rusk as a diagnosed schizophrenic, a
shock-treatment victim with a major drug problem.

 

By the late
’70s, the second boot fell to earth when Erickson hooked up with the Aliens to
cut a Stu Cook-produced, horror movie-influenced set of Roky originals that
included “I Walked With A Zombie,” “Bloody Hammer,”
“Creature With The Atom Brain,” and “Don’t Shake Me
Lucifer.” With a sprinkling of classics from the Elevators (“Fire
Engine,” “Tried To Hide,” “Roller Coaster,”
“Reverberation”), Erickson’s live set remained static for the next 10
years. By the mid-’90s, Erickson – unhappy, unhealthy and uncommunicative – had
all but given up music. In his darkest hour, Roky was taken in hand by his
younger brother, Sumner, who cleaned him up, fixed various health problems and,
over the course of a year, got him back on his feet.

 

The Erickson
brothers have since parted ways, but Roky’s career seems to have taken a
definite upturn with the new album. For the man who once wrote a song called
“Two-Headed Dog” and whose album artwork has depicted Erickson with a
third eyeball in his forehead, dropping the third shoe was mere child’s play.

 

You enter the
rabbit hole to the new world of Roky Erickson through “Devotional Number
One,” a song so lo-fi it sounds like it was recorded by a rusty nail
gouging a spiral furrow in a round slab of wood. Apparently, some of this
material was tracked by Roky’s mother, Evelyn, on a portable tape deck at Rusk
40 years ago. Like the horror B-movies that once ran nonstop in Erickson’s Austin apartment, the
unavoidable, burning-rodent-squeal of electric guitar feedback in the
background of “Goodbye Sweet Dreams” eventually shakes the song like
a rabid dog. The lyrics to “John Lawman,” a dark number that would
have fit well with Erickson’s creepy mother lode of material from 30 years ago,
are just these: “I kill people all day long/I sing my song/Because I’m
John Lawman.” On the other hand, “Birds’d Crash,” with Roky at
his most stream-of-consciousness endearing, floats on rain-seeded clouds of
electric guitar and quivering organ. “Bring Back The Past” has that
shimmering Buddy Holly/Sir Douglas vibe that once made Roky’s “Starry
Eyes” such a lump in the throat experience.

 

If they ever get
around to doing a Texas Mount Rushmore, the chiseled visages of Buddy, Doug and
Roky would be a damn fine place to start.

 

Standout Tracks: “Birds’d Crash,” “Bring
Back The Past” JUD COST

 

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