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The Chesterfield Kings - “Psychedelic Sunrise” (2007) review

The Chesterfield Kings - Psychedelic Sunrise (Wicked Cool, 2007)

Without a doubt, shortly into America’s punk musical phase, The Chesterfield Kings revamped the garage rock psych sounds of the mid 60’s, infusing those vibes with their own special take, and with that in mind, many if not all of The Chesterfield Kings’ albums sound very much the same, though if one has followed the band, you know that they’ve stated numerous times that they intended not to present any material that sounded as if it had stepped passed that 1966 line of demarcation.

That being said, the band has gone through various incarnations, where along its path they have shifted that afore mentioned line of demarcation, yet not by much, where the group came across great in live venues, yet without musical development, left fans unwilling to (in essence) purchase the same album over and over again. Whether someone clued them in or not is anyone’s guess, because they did turn out a series of rather impressive garage psychedelic numbers, “Somewhere, Nowhere,” “Sunrise (Turn On),” “Streaks and Flashes,” “Elevator Ride,” and the very impressive “Up & Down,” songs that stand as beacons for The Kings, but certainly do not make up even a percentage of the attitude that ranges through their entire catalog, where for me, these songs resounded with an unexpected timeless quality that actually broke new ground for not only the band, but for the genre they were championing as well. 

On a whole, it’s one thing to walk the line, and it’s another to come across as derivative, and that line began to falter, especially when they would cover an Electric Prunes’ track, and then go on to fill much of the album with material that sounded just the same, and very unoriginal. Yet (laughing) their tunnel vision is not without merit, as their swagger and passion is first rater, their choice of instruments only adds to the overall sound-effects, as do their vintage amps and wardrobe, where even the smallest details have not been overlooked. Again, it’s this vision that makes the band so cool to see live, yet limits one from slapping down dollars for more vinyl.

Psychedelic Sunrise was the shift I was listening for, where it seems that The Kings have come to turns with the notion that The Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request was the finest album The Stones ever released, yet in the same breath The Kings acknowledge that The Stones were too steeped in their love of all things riding with an undercurrent of the blues, hence the release of Psychedelic Sunrise, where those garage psych references blossom as never before.

“Sunrise [Turn On]” opens the album, and is a great piece of authentic rock n’ roll, setting the stage and opening the door for an album dedicated to the lost genre of psychedelic 60’s garage rock, traveling the road so many have been down, and one I never tire of roaming, especially when something so intoxicatingly new is delivered. I wish that I could list all of the groups this band has outright stolen from, but I won’t, because there is no shame at all in what The Chesterfield Kings have done. That being said, they do blister with an awful lot of Rolling Stones gestures, such as “Spanish Sun,” which is a reworked “Paint It Black,” and I have no idea why they have not been sued over the song “Elevator Ride,” lifted straight from very early Pink Floyd, while “Outtasite!” has been taken straight from Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen.” But their theft isn’t to be taken seriously ... it’s all a gracious nod to their forefathers, building relentlessly on everything that has influenced them; and that’s just the way it is.

Along the way, the band has tried out other inspirations, take the album Drunk On Muddy Waters released in 1990, where they attempt to channel the ghost of Mr. Waters, and come across as a group filled with teenage angst, filled with willingness, but completely out of their element. Then there’s their venture into the surf sound, which also came off as rather misguided, as these sonic waves where not part of The Kings’ DNA. All of this leads me back to this album, perhaps the most significant defining honest moment in the life of The Chesterfield Kings, because as good as any of the other material may or may not be, Psychedelic Sunrise, inspired by others or not, is contextually the strongest most responsible set of songs they’ve ever managed to string together.

*** The Fun Facts: The band draws their name from a defunct brand of unfiltered cigarettes, from a time when smoking was considered to be hip, where a cigarette dangling from one’s lips, or held between the strings on the neck of a guitar while one played, was just a sensational image.

- Jenell Kesler
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