- Purple vinyl (Limited Edition) $25
- American Lightning
- This is Love
- Easy Way Out
- Take 9
- Hypnotize My Heart
- Thank You, Mr. Downing
- Chronic Abduction
- Mothership to Motherearth
Release Date: April 27, 2018
Label: Heavy Psych Sounds Records
In the second cut ‘This is Love’ from The Freeks‘ fourth album, Crazy World, there is PJ Harvey‘s standout lyric, “I can’t believe that the axis turns on suffering when you taste so good.” And say whatever you want to about “Chronic Abduction” toward the record’s end or opener “American Lightning” before, to me, it’s that line in that cover summing up the central driving force of classically-derived heavy rock lust and thrust driving the Los Angeles five-piece’s second release on Heavy Psych Sounds, the eight tracks of which span a vast but still hyper-manageable 30 minutes.
That’s runtime is noteworthy because The Freeks‘ prior offering, 2016’s Shattered, was 48, so the new collection is a significant drop in duration; one that brings it more in line with 2013’s sophomore LP, Full On, though as seems to be the case with everything The Freeks have done going back to their 2008 Cargo Records self-titled debut, Crazy World has a mind of its own. It just so happens that that mind sounds like it’s been blown to bits on some obscure desert lysergic, and with a bit of Take it to the Stage mingled in with its Fun House and Superjudge, it offers listeners a quick but ultra-engaging sense of outward voyage, holding to an element of rawness with the vocals of Jonathan Hall (also guitar and bass) and Ruben Romano(also guitar, bass, drums and percussion). They are not, however, simply aping the tenets of classic punk or classic rock of any kind, and Crazy World sounds thoroughly modern in its presentation. But neither are they shy in showing off where their foundation comes from.
Come to think of it, “shy” isn’t a word I’d use for The Freeks on any aesthetic level. Romano and Hall are joined in the band by newcomer bassist Ray Piller, returning drummer Bob Lee, who debuted on Shattered, and keyboardist/synthesist Esteban Chavez, whose work once again proves crucial to evoking a psychedelic atmosphere across Crazy World‘s manic landscape. Not only in the two interludes “Take 9” and the noise and manipulated sample piece “Thank You, Mr. Downing” — a reference perhaps to early LSD researcher Jack Downing; the name comes up again in the finale — that leads and plays into the closing duo of “Chronic Abduction” and “Mothership to Mother Earth,” but also in the strutting Rolling Stones-style piano line of “Easy Way Out” and the low-mixed organ and swirl of “American Lightning,” which sets Crazy World‘s consuming forward momentum in motion.
There is little time wasted throughout the record, the longest song being “Mothership to Mother Earth” capping at 7:53. Nothing else hits the five-minute mark — “Hypnotize My Heart”” comes closest at 4:34 — and along with the straightforward structures in which most of the cuts operate, be it “This is Love” hammering its hook via sheer repetition or “Chronic Abduction” worming its way into the consciousness of the listener via easy nod and ambience surrounding its sleazy stonerist verses, the general tightness of the material’s construction helps maintain the momentum that “American Lightning” flashes forth. It would be a quick listen one way or another at a half-hour, but with the deft turns of style and mood between its opening salvo of “American Lightning,” “This is Love,” and “Easy Way Out,” the two, very different interludes with “Hypnotiize My Heart” sandwiched between them, and the final culminating pair, Crazy World sees The Freeks operating in top form and, at times, top pace, to keep a current of motion running through their material. Thus, it’s the kind of record that, when it’s over, you have little choice but to go back to the beginning and start again.
Perhaps one of the most fortunate aspects of Crazy World is that it lives up to that standard of warranting repeat listens. It’s not the kind of record that will take multiple visits to sink in necessarily, because that would kind of run counter to its punker side, but there’s enough depth in the mix even of the most straightforward songs — witness the midsection break in “American Lightning,” for example — that it manages to deliver something new each time out. The band employed a number of guests throughout, whether it’s Ray Hanson adding guitar scorch to that opener, Sara Loera putting backing vocals on “This is Love,” Rainer Fraenkel on bass for “Take 9” and “Mothership to Mother Earth” or Glenn Slater adding synth and keys to those same two songs as well as “Hypnotize My Heart.” That track, likely the side B opener, introduces some of the darker-toned fuzz that will reemerge following the noise wash of “Thank You, Mr. Downing” and add to the sense of relative lurch in “Chronic Abduction,” but the acoustic and swirl and dynamic jam that emerges in “Mothership to Mother Earth” is the ultimate earmark of the band’s triumph over the forces of squaredom.
Its near-eight-minutes are a thrill of minor-key ebbs and flows, classic psych and desert idolatry sharing space in, well, space. Heady vibe? You best believe it, but that’s the idea, and as big a fan as I am of opening records with their longest tracks — always a bold move; always good for bonus points in my book — the inclusion of “Mothership to Mother Earth” anywhere on Crazy World is brazen enough. And one might say the same of the record as a whole: brazen. The Freeks have never exactly been subtle, whether it was the funk-punk of their debut or the psychedelia that’s emerged in their work since, but there’s no question that Crazy World puts their delivery in a new echelon in terms of songwriting and execution. They’ve never lacked confidence, but the poise with which they hurl their rawer side forth here isn’t to be ignored, and though at times the outing may seem unhinged, one should never doubt that the controls are in the hands of masters. This band is so much better than people know. Tell two friends.
- The Obelisk