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For a decade or so Brooklyn’s Weird Owl have been carving themselves a nice little niche in the psych scene. ‘Bubblegum Brainwaves’ is their sixth album in that time and have been released by Tee Pee and Anton Newcombe’s A Recordings. Live they have supported BJM and played some of the great festivals including the Black Angel’s curated Austin Psych Fest, The Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia, and The Netherlands’ Incubate Festival. As if that wasn’t enough, this new album has guest appearance from the legend that is Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. In a nutshell, ‘Bubblegum Brainwaves’ is a delightful slice of synth driven neo-psych with some great hooks and melodies.
Opening with ‘Invisibility Cloak’, a big, driving neo-psych stomper with plenty of fuzzy guitars, thudding drums and pretty darned cool organ-like synth. The ‘wall of sound’ combined with the reverbed vox make for a heady mix that ticks all the boxes. ‘You (Sometimes Not You)’ has the feel of an early eighties synth driven ‘pop’ song…and this is no bad thing. There are still flashes of psych, mainly in the guitar, but it is the synth that gives this track it’s character. ‘Black Never White’ sees things turn firmly back to the neo-psych side of things…some wonderful guitar that flits between shoegaze and psych and that ever present synth providing the backdrop. ‘Such A Myth’ is a gem of a track…the acoustic guitar and melancholic synth imbue things with an acid folk vibe which is matched beautifully by the vocals. It has a real lilting quality and gets right under your skin (in a good way)…definitely one of the standout tracks. ‘The Lizard and the Owl’ is another down tempo number with shimmering guitar and a lush drone in the background whilst the lead single ‘War’ is a bombastic belter..the vocals impassioned and the drums beat out a primal tattoo. It has more than a whiff of the Black Angels….which is a good thing. There is an urgency that is well controlled and so never crosses the line into frantic and frenetic…impressive stuff. It will be ‘Bartholomew Iris’, however, that will garner the headlines, which is both a blessing and a curse…the spoken word vocals are courtesy of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, which is a coup for any band and this will certainly prick up a few ears…I just hope that this is not at the cost of the rest of the album being ignored. The track itself is a dystopian sci-fi tract about life and death, it has an undeniable intensity and hits hard but the accompanying music must be recognised…drums and synths combine with swirling guitar to produce something as dramatic as P-Orridge’s poetry. It is a brave inclusion on the album but one that pays dividends and it is, predictably, an immersive and hypnotic nine minutes. In direct contrast the next track, ‘Many Things I Saw In The Coffin’, is another bucolic beauty….all acoustic guitars, muted vocals and some more great synth work. The album is closed with ‘Tired Old Sun’..a languid number whose slow burning melodies belies a pessimistic darkness inherent in the lyrics.