Psychedelic/space rock, when done properly, can obliterate the senses and the mind.
It’s heavy, but it’s groovy.
It’s based in working class rock n roll, but it’s aiming at the cosmos.
These contradictions are essential to the genre and explain why those early Hawkwind records still sound immense nearly 50 years on.
Forming in Austin, Texas in 1987, ST 37 produce heavy, psychedelic space rock (which is appropriate for a band who are named after a track by Chrome).
Recorded over a four year period, ‘I’m Not Good’ (their fourteenth studio album) was originally released in 2014 as a CD/download. However, the good folks at Yoshiwara Collective and Pariah Child (behind releases by Argus, Gnod and Ogre) have teamed up to deliver a release on wax for this LP.
Although it may seem an odd obscurity to pick for immortalisation on vinyl, a listen to the album makes it clear as to why the Yoshiwara / Pariah lads so excited in the first place.
Opening with ‘Down on Us’ (a tribute to the 1984 movie of the same name), we get two minutes of a field recording out among wildlife (reminiscent of the apocryphal tale of the Butthole Surfers giving Touch and Go a tape of cricket noises when the label asked for a sample of what they were working on).
And certainly, the impression that some would have is to wonder if they’ve been given the wrong record.
But then the scuzzy rock kicks in, and everything is ok.
The mood is very, very midtempo and the vocals hazed and laid back.
The guitars are shrill and fuzzed out. Almost like Blue Cheer covering the Chocolate Watchband. At 5 minutes (over 7 if you include the sample), it’s an odd opener because, although it immediately sucks you into the world that this LP inhabits, it’s not an immediate song.
Yes, it certainly grooves, but has little in the way of a riff to sink your teeth into.
The mixture of Space Invader sound effects and acoustic guitar is a strong indication that ‘Doppelganger’ will be a spacey one. And it certainly is, with the fuzz acting as a kind of conduit for tripping souls, to contact the mothership to deliver them to a place where the stars begin and end. Yes, it’s that evocative.
‘Dirty Little Homewrecker’ takes the psych and pushes it into overdrive, as it soundtracks an everyday conversation, leading into a cover of soul singer Dobie Gray’s ‘The “In” Crowd’ which feels like it could have come from ‘Spine of God’ era Monster Magnet, thanks to it directness, dirtiness and freaked out tone.
‘Baxty’ manages to shoehorn a post punk feel into the LP with it’s melodic, laid back bass line while the violin and noodling guitar in the background (for some reason) makes me think of King Crimson.
Despite balancing these differences, it never loses focus and is a storming song.
ST 37 have the sound and (undoubtedly) the equipment needed down to a tee, and although it’s obvious that what you’re hearing is a group of Texan misfits who love psychedelic/space rock, it never once feels like a pastiche. It sounds like a record that could have emerged in 1970.
Although it’s not perfect due to excessive padding (songs such as ‘Girl Like You’ and ‘Magnetic Amphibian Hydrated Gills’ could easily lose a few minutes here and there) there are certainly enough good and great songs on here to hail this as an enjoyable release.
Maybe more of Chrome next time around, and less of Gong.
3.5 / 5 –Christopher Owens ::: 25/01/18