Frankie And The Witch Fingers "Frankie And The Witch Fingers" (Permanent Records, 2014)
I love it when a plan comes together, and I love it even more when my favorite bands join forces with my favorite labels as every once in a great while, just sometimes, the fruits of that labor reflect the combined reasons why I love both the label and the band. Frankie And The Witch Fingers debut long-player for Permanent Records is certainly one of these rare planetary alignments though indeed! Permanent Records not only has a flawless record with releases like the first Purling Hiss album (Interview here), Umberto’s debut and last year’s incredible I’m good To Drive by Basic Cable (Interview here) but they’ve been picking up the pace with releases over the past two years or so without diminishing any of the usual meticulous eye for detail and skill that has helped to shape their reputation as one of the best independent labels running today. Frankie And The Witch Fingers isn’t just another notch in Permanent’s belt though, constantly interested in expanding the sound and spectrum of the label, The Witch Fingers’ debut album is easily one of the best psychedelic pop albums of the past decade for me and pushes Permanent once again to the top of the list as far as labels to keep a close eye on. I sat down and talked some shop with Frankie And The Witch Fingers last year (2014 Interview here) when they had just finalized plans for the release of this album, so I’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while, and let me tell you, this album does not disappoint! Opening with the pulsating, reverberated madness of “Flower Pedals” it’s pretty obvious from the moment that Frankie And The Witch Fingers starts that this is gonna be a psychedelic trip through the outer stratosphere of consciousness and sanity. Looped, echoing vocals bounce and explode in the back of a thunderous wall of bass and drums, guitar glimmering and slithering to the front only sporadically leaving plenty of room for the blown-out audible to still be audible and engaging. Dumped straight from a Tascam 488 the lo-fi rumble, distortion and in-your-face in-the-red production quality is perfectly suited to Frankie And The Witch Fingers, making them sound even more like they successfully climbed into a time machine somewhere deep in the San Francisco scene sometime in the early 70s before everything went tits up. “Knife Fight” retains the energy of the album opener while adding a rumpus like melody that will have you shaking your ass before you can bat an eye. As seriously cool as this music is, it’s not all wrapped up in itself and there’s a sense of light-hearted brevity, almost a naivety if I may, to the sound that allows it to capture the true spirit of unhindered psychedelia that it appears to have been aiming for. Leading into “Revival” things are getting more and more hooky, the guitar clamoring farther and farther to the front of the mix, layer after layer of distorted fuzz and gnarled distortion piling on like a schoolyard free-for-all, until you’re just left with this hissing monstrosity of crunchy distortion and wailing feedback that will suddenly snap into these crisp and wicked lead lines tearing right through the thick stew of sound like a knife through butter. I love the way that the leadline and the dissonant howling solo that pops up throughout the song join up for about thirty seconds for an amphetamine fueled haze to finish out “Revival” in a glittering wave of noise. “In Your Head” is the first song that showcases just how psychedelic Frankie And The Witch Fingers are truly capable of getting. Moving into a seriously cosmic headspace, “In Your Head” has an undeniable sense of majesty to it; something timeless and extremely powerful that you just can’t quite put your finger on. Swirling electric lines of bass and guitar bubble up from the endless galactic drone of drums and reverberation that blanket the sound like the countless stars in the sky. Building up to an explosive eruption of sound and distortion that bends and folds in on itself like spectrums of light, “In Your Head” is without a doubt my favorite song on Frankie And The Witch Fingers; capable of both the entrancing dancy sounds and thunderous psychedelic frenzy that I fell in love with on Sidewalk. It’s a hard act to follow but “Diamonds” is another hell of a song. It’s the kind of song that will give Ty Segall a run for his money any day of the week, effortless psychedelic garage rock mastery that even in a time of heavy revival like today, isn’t easy to come by. It’s songs like “Diamond” that make it very clear Frankie And The Witch Fingers are much less interested in doing what’s been done before, or sounding like anyone that has preceded them, as much as they’re interested in refining the timeless sense of wonderment and exploration that defined the traditional psychedelic movement and boy, oh boy, have they done one hell of a job. I can hear as much Cooked Books as The 13th Floor Elevators in tracks like “Vibrations”, which if when listened to with a trained ear do sound like some of the other mind bending stuff coming out of Indiana right now; the organ work on this track is definitely on par with La Luz (Interview here) or any of the other indie darlings operating right now, bringing a hard-edge to the usually tranquil instrument. A slight surf tinged vibe creeps through the entire album but “Vibrations” is one of the few that’s unabashedly open and forthright about that fact, heavily wah-ed out guitar jangling and muttering asserted statements of sporadic lysergic wisdom. “Electric Séance” is one of the more accessible and approachable songs on Frankie And The Witch Fingers, with some classic falsetto lyrics that sound undeniably like they could have popped up on any of Ty’s last couple of albums. The music is a little more stripped down then that though, the production a bit more thoroughly accurate to the sounds that they’re trying to create, and “Electric Séance” is a wonderful example of the Revolver/Rubber Soul heart that beats at the heart of Frankie And The Witch Fingers. Spastic pans rocket the guitar from side to side before exploding like a glittering beacon of light in the depths of deep space and finally yielding to the slow passions of “Lou Reed”. It doesn’t sound out of place or anything, but I swear “Loud Reed” is a 1976 single from some sleazy San Fran band that some stoned engineer just forgot to release at the time! On an album that seems so meticulously recorded and constructed that the songs almost blend into one another, getting a song to sound so ravenously different and still fit in with the aesthetic of the album isn’t easy, but that’s just what Frankie And The Witch Fingers manage to do. Only two songs out from the end of the album “Loud Reed” is a perfect example of how the band isn’t afraid to try something different, to switch it up a little bit, no matter where or when they might find themselves… Fading out on an echoing organ line “Motorcycle” lives up to its’ name and comes firing down the highway like a crotch-rocket out of out hell! The basslines on this album are sickening, just skull crushing, heart palpitating claps of rumbling thunder lighting the album up like a million-watt light bulb. “Motorcycle” more than any other song on the album makes me want, no scratch that – need, to see Frankie And The Witch Fingers live! The infectious energy just bleeds from “Motorcycle” and operates as a summoning beacon for all the lost and lonely drunken souls wandering through the darkness looking for that tiny shaft of glimmering light in the murky haze. “Smiling” finishes up Frankie And The Witch Fingers with a slow smoldering rhythm, half the tempo of any other track on the LP and yet with twice as much energy somehow. The contemplative construction of the album is again apparent in a masterful switch in tones towards the latter half of Frankie And The Witch Fingers. The guitar snarls and growls while the bass plunks and hammers, drums trembling in the back of the mix with what sounds like some slight flange on them, a haunting ethereal tone building, growing and ebbing at will throughout. Softly crooned vocals lull the listener off to a calm gentle hypnotic state, sliding in and out of consciousness and awareness, the world dimming and brightening like the flashes of a camera bulb in your brain before collapsing into a single line of feedback that fades into the cosmic ethers until it becomes utterly nigh… Limited to only five hundred copies worldwide, I am telling you this one is gonna go quick! With only a cassette and an appearance on a 7-inch single so far, Frankie And The Witch Fingers have teamed with Permanent Records to make a true psychedelic statement in the form of their debut long-player due out at the end of February through Permanent Records. Intoxicating, enchanting, mesmerizing and at times completely off the wall, this is not an album that you’re going to want to miss. For fans of Ty Segall, Spacemen 3, and hell, just about any decent psych going on really. If you have any questions click the link below for some testimony, and make sure you pick a copy directly from the label on slick, ultra-limited and exclusive, Potion Pink Colored Wax Vinyl at the link below for it’s too late!
- Listen while you read: https://soundcloud.com/permanentrecords/
- Buy it here: https://shop.permanentrecordschicago.com/
Review made by Roman Rathert/2015
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