Monday, September 26, 2016

The Psyatics – Famous Monsters

They say there are monsters residing inside all of us - and some of us are simply better at hiding them
than others. On this, the third Psyatics album, songwriter/vocalist/bassist Rob Bell delves into these demons and brings them into the light, sharing disturbing tales of the evil that we humans do to each other, ranging from the plights of serial killers to the passionate throes of violent relationships.

Here Rob is joined by longtime cohort, guitar/noiseman Jack Ball along with new skin basher, Mark Bartschi (veteran of innumerable bands, including the Swank Bastards and the Pussyrammers), replacing original drummer Jimmy Krah. While Jimmy was an excellent drummer, Mark's newness seems to have reinvigorated the band, both live and in the studio and this record has a fiercely dark energy to it.

Starting with the title track, "Famous Monsters" is a drivin' three-chord power-riff that veers off with a few somewhat atonal chords here'n'there just to make sure you never get too comfortable. The lyrics will also ensure that you don't get complacent, as Rob rattles off some of the more unpleasant tendencies of America's more "famous monsters". Relenting a little, Mark starts a surf-ish beat while Jack gives some melodic arpeggios that Rob's bass lines swirl around as he narrates an affair that ended permanently in "The Last Time I Saw Julia". "Lay Low" sounds like the soundtrack to film about being on the run from the law, as the lyrics describe a caper gone wrong, and while "Shake Them Bones" seems like it could be taken more than one way, apparently it is simply the latest frantic dance sensation - or kind of an update on "Rockin' Bones". It is difficult to keep still during this one - and Rob's wife Danielle adds some nice harmonies, as well. I love Gene Howley's old-timey sax playing on the rhythmic "You Killed Me First", where Rob's looping bass lines moves along this tale of love gone good'n'bad and then something went very wrong in "Burnt Offerings", as the protagonist and his prey have a shrieking debate as to whether she'll be "dining as my guest or on the grill" - dark in the extreme!

One of the most lyrically vicious songs I have ever heard is "Pet Names", where Killing Joke mixes with an old torch song as Rob and Danielle trade sharp barbs and Gene adds sweet saxophone. The Drags' "I Like To Die" becomes a perfect, high-energy Psyatics garage number here and is followed by the cool jazz of "The Cost of Love in Today's Market", which gives a respite from the vitriol and tortured madness of the rest. Back in full force with the fuzz and a rapidly rollickin' bass riff for the ode to the Church of the Sub Genius in "I Am Slack", which also throws in some radical tempo changes, and then some edginess in "Voices in my Head", with more sweetly screechin' sax-work and a diabolical self-diagnosis of needs unfulfilled in the No-Wave-ish "Missing Piece" and "Secret" before concluding with a highlight of their current live set, a psychotic, Psyatic treatment of Lou Reed's "I Can't Stand It Any More".

These cats have been pals as well as one of my fave current bands ever since I first saw them back in 2012 - and they even graciously thanked me in the liner notes - so you may say that I am biased, but this is another fantastic slab of modern garage madness that I highly recommend!