When some of the best sounds of the early ’90s are crossed with the psychedelic rock sounds of the ’60s, that’s a pretty strong start in building a cult following of fans of both. Secret Colours have been compared with other forerunners of the current psych rock scene, like Black Angels and Ringo Deathstarr, but having also established themselves in their home base of Chicago as a psychedelic “new wave” band to take note of, they’re mixing in several other styles as well.
On their new record, Peach, there’s almost always fuzz, but the lines are cleaner. With Tommy Evans on vocals/guitar, Dave Stach on guitar/vocals, Justin Frederick on drums, and Eric Hehr on bass, the band takes shoegaze sensibilities from bands like Ride and Swervedriver, as well as plenty of cues taken from the drug-drenched Britpop of the early ’90s. They also throw in doses of melodica and pop. With all these different elements, at times the record can feel too eclectic, mixing styles that don’t always go together. If “soft psych” exists as an opposition to “heavy psych,” that’s more where these guys fall, but they manage to avoid being too all over the place, and ultimately there’s enough of the good stuff to make it work, and what Secret Colours has is a solid daydream album, the kind you can put on and let it influence your mind for just over 54 minutes.
The album opens with first single “Blackbird (Only One),” which is one of the most rockin’ and best examples of the melding of shoegaze with some of the heaviest psych sounds on the album. It’s almost exactly half and half, with the psych section kicking in with this great guitar riff that comes off like the beginning of a new song. But it doesn’t blow out till the end – instead some organ sneaks in and it all settles into a nice groove for the vocals to drop in. The only track that really tops this one in vigor and arrangement is “Faust,” which is the most rock n’ rollin’ jump around romp, and has to be the most fun track live.
There’s more than one tune on the album that would make Brett Anderson proud. “Freak” exudes drugged out kink, especially with the way Evans woozily declares “I wanna be your freak,” in the chorus. When the crunchy guitar kicks in, the band is earning their “feedback-drenched bliss-out” description. “Peach” is another one, with similar playfully suggestive lyrics like “So feed on me, I’ll be your peach.” If only I could actually hear the little ‘ding!’ of a bright white-toothed grin after those words.
Where the album starts to loose steam is with “Euphoric Collisions,” which is the token silly pop song about liking a girl on the album. But although it’s a strange thing to have something that basically sounds like a straightforward pop song just dipped in psychedelic reverb, that in itself becomes interesting in the end. Closing track “Love Like A Fool” begins like it could go either way; either moderately cheesy compared to the rest of the songs, or the unexpected but satisfying end ballad. It ends up being satisfying as it echoes the sentiments of the tracks that came before. It feels just as much of a call back to “World Through My Window” lines “I want someone / with the magic touch / I want someone / who loves too much,” as it does to the tale of things not going as planned in “Blackhole.” Essentially, Secret Colours wrap up the album with saying that we don’t need to always do things right – in fact, it’s more fun not to.
Peach is out now through Secret Colours’ Bandcamp.
Photo By Lenny Gilmore