Cambridge psych band more into Sabbath and Satan than sunshine and flowers
The genre of ‘psych’ is currently having its biggest resurgence since Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett realised he quite enjoyed riding a two-wheeler and wanted to write a song about it. From Tame Impala’s blissed-out introversions to Toy’s kraut-inflected drones to the Byrds-indebted, paisley vibes of Temples, if you don’t sound like you’ve just dropped a tab of acid then 2013 doesn’t care. All of these bands fall on the prettier side of the genre. Read a review that doesn’t contain the word ‘hazy’ recently? Thought not. Cambridge’s Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats, however, eat hazy for breakfast.
Though the quartet are only just starting to bubble up into wider consciousness, ‘Mind Control’ is actually the band’s second record. Their first, 2011’s ‘Blood Lust’, was a concept album based around a vintage Hammer Horror film. Original pressings of it fetch prices way into the £100s, while their recent shows at the Garage in London sold out with ease. This should give you an idea as to what we’re dealing with here – a cult obscurity too good and too brilliantly evil to remain in the shadows.
‘Mind Control’ opener ‘Mt Abraxas’ defines their intriguing schtick from the off. Grinding in on the filthiest Black Sabbath riffs imaginable, we begin in full-on heavy rock mode. It’s not so much that Uncle Acid’s heart beats to a darker drum than a lot of their psych counterparts, more that they operate from the deepest depths of hell. Give the track a minute though, and there’s a glimmer of light. Though the axe bludgeoning continues to crash behind them, Uncle Acid and his pals actually have a pretty sweet set of pipes between them. It’s this contrast of dead-eyed rock grit and ’60s harmonious that sets the group up as more than just doom-mongers.
Strip back the propulsive throb of ‘Mind Crawler’ or ‘Desert Ceremony’ and the vocal parts are as rich and layered as any drug-addled, latter-day Beatles tune. On current single ‘Poison Apple’ you’ve got a track as heavy yet melodically accessible as any of Queens Of The Stone Age’s poppier moments. There are some cuts (‘Evil Love’ in particular) on which the riffs are so audaciously gigantic they may as well be Iron Maiden, but there’s considerably more going on here than just a band playing about with rock stereotypes. ‘Death Valley Blues’ brings the pace down for the record’s highlight, while ‘Follow The Leader’ opens with what sounds like a cosmic duel between a sitar and Hades. Clearly fed with water from a pool full of wide-reaching influences, ‘Mind Control’ is a record that reveals more about itself with every listen. Not all of it’s pretty. In fact, none of it is. Psych just went over to the dark side.