Psykobilly – i hate psykobilly vol. 1

 Psykobilly – i hate psykobilly vol. 1

Psykobilly – i hate psykobilly vol. 1 – Album Review

Just gonna launch into this one headfirst as there’s always lots to say about Psykobilly…here we go…

I’m probably more of a fan of the performance and production on “Lose Your Self” than I end up being a fan of the song itself as i hate psykobilly vol. 1 begins.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some seriously significant highlights to be found and some remarkable hooks on display in this tune without question, but there are also moments where it feels like they’re potentially overcomplicating a natural accessibility that exists too, which results in that push/pull feeling you get in a song that has an uneven balance of strengths.  At five minutes in length, the positives easily overpower any parts that I wasn’t as jazzed about, but it’s still one of those situations you end up in where you find yourself somewhat wishing they’d just stuck to the parts we’d universally agree on.  Like the beginning is fantastic for example…or when Bill sings “it never ends” soon afterwards – that’s awesome too.  The piece in the middle, the “take a piece of me” part…meh…I’m neither here nor there with it if I’m being honest with ya.  Everything else is so incredibly inviting and easy to listen to that this one piece ends up feeling a bit like banging the square peg through the round hole…but yeah…the rest works perfectly and I’d say that every set of ears would be into what they find.  Performance-wise, you gotta dig the level that this band has risen to in comparison to where their story started – they sound remarkable now, and they should be genuinely proud of that.  Anytime you put everything you’ve got into what you do, you put yourself in position for a win with listeners on the other side.  So what if I’m not a massive fan of a single part of one song?  There will be plenty of others that feel like that part ties the entire song together, I promise.  Great bass and synth sounds…the details are there…”Lose Your Self” gives the album somewhere to go.

That being said, at the risk of being the unpopular guy in the room right now…the sound seems to be there more than the material is at the start of this record.  “F.U.N. (16th Century Prophet Blues)” likely just isn’t my thing…but that’s not to say it won’t be yours.  Like I was saying, if you’re putting in the work and you’ve got a great performance recorded & production to go with it, any track stands a chance of winning people over.  For me, the highlights here were in the shock value that comes along with a chorus that starts out with “fuck you Nostradamus” – that’s a brilliant line that completely stands out and even provides a bit of a chuckle.  I tend to not have too much beef with those that were last alive centuries ago…I’ve moved on…but it was incredibly amusing to consider things from the side of someone that can’t let go and might carry a grudge years and years later.  Other than that, even the amazing Isabelle Sorrell couldn’t quite save this one for me.  She’s a great singer and I’ve personally sung her praises a whole bunch of times in reviews of Psykobilly throughout the years – and make no mistake, she’s great here too – I just don’t really have a lot of love for “F.U.N. (16th Century Prophet Blues)” as a song.  When Psykobilly gets things completely right for me personally, I’ve always been the first to say, but even a stellar performance from the band all around can’t quite push past watered down material.

“What’s Going Down” might get a bit closer to the vibe I love most from Psykobilly, but it’s still missing that main reason to return or something special that can’t be duplicated, know what I mean?  Of all things, I appreciate the sentiment & intentions of a song like “What’s Going Down” more than anything else – it’s based on a real positive & hopeful outlook that contains important messages everyone out there could benefit from hearing right now.  The band is playing at an incredible level of professionalism – I’d never take a single point away from what they’re accomplishing together in their performances – Phil Sorrell is putting on a clinic when it comes to the music you’ll find on this album, and “What’s Going Down” reveals a beautifully dreamy melody that’s equally catchy.  Isabelle is giving us a stunning array of robust tones and welcoming vocals that really complement the words…the bass-lines once again are practically irresistible here…lots to like even if it’s the kind of song that’ll remind you of several tunes you’ve heard throughout music’s history.  There’s less identity in a track like “What’s Going Down,” and that might just be something that Psykobilly has to live with, but the results are quite listenable overall.

There we go!  That’s the magic we’re looking for – it’s in “Someone (With Nothing To Say)” – I knew we’d find it somewhere, we always do in Psykobilly’s music.  I tell ya, things would be so much easier if I was just “Someone (With Nothing To Say)” as opposed to being the kind of opinionated critic I am…I wouldn’t end up being public enemy number one for expressing a point of view all the time.  And don’t get me wrong, if you wanna examine my own role in the universe, I’d be the first to agree that every single one of us reviewers and critics truly ARE people with basically nothing to say or of value to contribute to society in some meaningful way…so maybe I am just “Someone (With Nothing To Say)” after all, you follow me?  I heard a statistic somewhere out there the other day that resonated with me – something along the lines of how 60% of all human interaction is completely pointless…which seemed like the math was low to me, but it would equate to how we all have nothing to say more or less.  Anyhow – I like it when songs get my wheels turning just as much as they excite my ears – “Someone (With Nothing To Say)” is that cut for me, and inarguably the best of the first four tracks in my opinion.  I think Bill does a great job in the lead and finds the perfect melody, and the way that Isabelle complements his performance in the background is nothing short of spectacular.  As the song progresses it becomes more of an even duet of sorts, and that works wonders in their favor too…but the real bottom line is that the material is there on this track – you can hear that they’re all into this song as a result.  This is that celebratory style of crossover Post-Punk/New Wave where they shift into its upbeat moods that lean hard on the Pop side of sound.  Psykobilly wears this suit like a perfect fit for them, and in my opinion, it brings out the best in them all.  Single-worthy sound in every inch of this tune, some of the most incredible use of their dual vocalists that you’ll have heard from the band to-date, hooks that can’t possibly be denied by anyone listening…fantastic production…everything about this is addictive.  Every time that you get to hear Isabelle pop up for the first time in the background just past the first minute of this song, I fall in love with “Someone (With Nothing To Say)” all over again…love that part.  It seems to cue the entire band to raise the stakes even further, which they go on to do through the rest.

“We Are The Lost” is an interesting tune to me, and one that I’d advocate has that intangible magic we wanna hear, even if it’s not quite as radiantly apparent or as abundant as what we find in “Someone (With Nothing To Say)” just beforehand.  It’s freakin’ close…I really like what I hear in the hooks and the ideas within this song as well.  What made it interesting to me was that Isabelle is in the lead of this song – and if I’m being truthful with ya, that sounds like a Bill part.  So what we get, is a more monotone version of Isabelle, which almost ends up sounding like Isabelle doing her best Bill, you following me?  She tends to bring something that’s a lot different than what we hear from her in the verses – and you’ll get some of that in the chorus for sure, but it still makes the approach to the verses a bit more perplexing, know what I mean?  It’s like you have to wonder if they were on some kind of strange schedule and Bill was sick the day of recording “We Are The Lost” – because yeah…I’d tell ya that it’s actually his voice that’s more built & suited for the lead, despite enjoying the results of how Isabelle sings it – that make sense?  I’m never gonna be the guy to argue against more Isabelle, she’s always excellent…but yeah…seemed like a surprising choice from the band for the lead this time around.  I dig the song though, don’t get me wrong – the harmonies are stellar, the sentiment is great, and the chorus has Psykobilly knocking it right outta the park.  The dynamics are audible, but fairly subdued here – if anything I’d encourage the music to breathe a bit more here in this tune…I ain’t complaining about what we get, but I’d definitely listen to a remix of this song where the music plays a more starring role too.

I am probably a bit more tossed up over “(She’s An) Emotional Athlete,” though like on all of the songs found throughout i hate psykobilly vol. 1, there are still plenty of positives.  I really like the drums and percussion in this song, I really like the harmonies shared between Bill and Isabelle, I really like the brief breakdown in this track mid-tune, the transition into the chorus, and the details you’ll find added in like the waves within the song as well.  Where I think things get more debatable, would probably be in what we find in the main title and how it’s sung in this song…some folks are gonna love that stylistic choice Bill makes, others could find it a bit distracting from the rest.  I’m probably in the latter camp myself, but I appreciate the fact he’s trying something different there.  Lyrically, I found “(She’s An) Emotional Athlete” to be undeniably unique, but that uniqueness can often come at the cost of snapping us out of the rest of the song’s natural fluidity in order to listen to the words.  Over time and experience, you don’t really feel the effects of that so much and accept any song more as a whole through repetition, but yeah…towards the start of listening to this song, I felt like I was listening to the words & vocals more than the rest of it.  Nothing wrong with that of course, but much like I felt about “We Are The Lost” right beforehand, I think Psykobilly can probably lean on the music a bit more than they have been and likely envelop their vocals inside of it more for an even bigger sound to their songs, if that’s what they want.  Bill sings this cut with a bit of that INXS-esque Micheal Hutchence flair in the verses…people will dig that.

I’d likely be looking at “God Knows I Know” as a potential single somewhere along the way too…I went back & forth a bit over whether or not I felt like Psykobilly got the absolute maximum potential out of this song or not…but if they didn’t, it’d be really freakin’ close and I ended up feeling like I’d be splitting hairs.  Regardless, the positives resonate strongly here…the hooks are memorable, the songwriting is stellar, and ultimately, Isabelle takes the starring role in this song with a supreme level of confidence.  It’s the kind of confidence you get when you believe in the material, and you feel that through the way that she performs this song.  You might recognize the voice at the start of this track as well, which belongs to a wonderful fictional character you might remember, by the name of Tyler Durden.  If you don’t recognize that name, you’ll remember the guy that played him onscreen in Fight Club – Brad Pitt.  The quote you’ll hear sets the stage for the moodiness that follow, which mixes beautiful melody with a melancholic demeanor perfectly, giving you an array of evocative vibes that’ll continue to sink deep into your thoughts long after the song is over.  “You left your heart out in the rain” is a fantastic line that always stands out to me when I listen to this tune, but it really felt like every moment of this song got its proper due, and the more I heard “God Knows I Know” the more I felt like I was onboard with it all.  The music has a wonderful uniqueness to it that you can hear right from the very first moments, and then it goes on to find itself right in the pocket of smoothness as they roll through the verses, which arguably have just as many hooks to’em as the chorus does.  It’s a really well-written and well thought-out song.

Some fantastic background elements & synth parts in a song like “The Sky Is A Canvas,” and I think you get another excellent performance from Isabelle, who is always great.  We’re treading closer to the adult contemporary mid-80s on this track though, let’s be real about that.  In my opinion, Psykobilly is best off when they’re doing what Psykobilly does, more-so than you’ll find in tunes that feel like they’re treading into terrain that many of us have lived through.  Every record ends up with a different focus of some kind though…whether bands or artists realize it, it’s something we can always tell if we’re being fully objective, or often learn through hindsight years later.  From what I can tell, Psykobilly is in the time they’ll look back and feel like sound quality and performance was the priority – and there’s a million great things to be said about what they’ve accomplished in that regard, “The Sky Is A Canvas” included.  Having said that, it feels like this record has traded a bit of their natural identity in exchange for that – and it’s hard to say whether or not that’s the direction they’re gonna go in, or if they’ve gone too far, know what I mean?  There’s certainly a ton to be said of creating any kind of flawless tune – I’ve said that hundreds of times on these pages of ours…but I’m not so certain that if the cost is paid in identity that it’s always going to be worth it for every band or artist out there, and Psykobilly will have to figure out if that’s the direction they wanna go in, or not.  All I can do is call things like I hear’em, nothing more, nothing less.  Do I enjoy “The Sky Is A Canvas?”  Sure!  Will I remember it?  Probably not.  Not every tune we’re ever gonna write is gonna be that much of a stand out or that different from the rest – there are peaks & valleys in every career over time.  I look at it this way – if their goal was to create an album that sounds great and is filled with flawless performances, then right on, the mission has basically been accomplished and it’s a job well done.  There are always more than enough opinions opposite to mine that’ll proclaim “The Sky Is A Canvas” to be a masterpiece and all that…we live with that as critics every day.  You’re all welcome to disagree with anything/everything I say – all I can do is share my own perspective with ya.  There ain’t anything about “The Sky Is A Canvas” to be ashamed of in the way that they’ve played it, it’s just not a track that’s pushing the band forward so much as further into the past.  Like I said, if they’re comfortable with that, or if that’s what they were aiming for, then right on – right?  It reminds me of something you’d hear by Starship…which is plenty alright with me – I’ve said numerous times that “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” is one of the best songs ever written, even though it’s very much outside what I’d normally listen to as well.  Credit where credit is due y’all – I’m nothing but fair.

Like, for instance, I’d probably take ten spins of “The Sky Is A Canvas” in comparison to one of “Long Time Dead” – it might not have a ton of identity to Psykobilly’s signature sound as we know it, but it’s something I’d listen to, whereas “Long Time Dead” probably isn’t nearly so much my thing.  Again, we stretch, we try things, we evolve and we grow…and we do that by trial and error to test what works.  For some out there that have been craving a more aggressive side of Psykobilly’s sound, or for them to tread into a cross between 80s Rock & Blues Rock, I have great news – your time has come, it’s here, and it’s in “Long Time Dead.”  Excellent background vocals and harmonies to be found…and lyrically, there’s a fair amount to dig on here when it comes to what’s being said and the core messages in “Long Time Dead” – that’s all strong & positive stuff.  It’s a bit heavier on the low-end when it comes to this particular track, but when you’re listening, it’s pretty clear that’s what they were going for this time around.  Different goals on different albums, and the same can often be true on a track-by-track basis.  There’s a classic cool that runs through the veins of “Long Time Dead” that might feel a bit standard, but there’s no question about their execution when it comes to the performance.  Love the ending and the rasp that Isabelle starts to apply to her vocals, and the way she coughs out the final moments too…that was inventive and I dig that.  Same thing with the sirens you’ll find as the song starts too…I dig that kind of detail and I know that Psykobilly does as well.  “Don’t think of the time that you’ve wasted, regretting the things that you’ve said” – those are words to live by dear readers, dear friends – and I agree, 100%.

So while it’s been a bit of a mix for me when it comes to what resonated and what didn’t with the songs on i hate psykobilly vol. 1, I continue to believe the best years of this band are still ahead of them.  I also think that they still offer ya plenty of highlights on this record to make it well worth your time to listen as well.  For myself personally, I feel like the main strengths are towards the middle…songs like “Someone (With Nothing To Say),” “We Are The Lost,” and “God Knows I Know” – I felt like those were all real achievements for the band, not just for how they sound & how they’re performed, but from the concept straight on through to the execution.  They end I hate psykobilly vol. 1 with an audible oddity called “Theme For Lost Doll Found In Abandoned Psychiatric Hospital Part 2,” which I appreciated…I like how it gives this record a completely unpredictable ending, even if I’m relatively sure it’s not going to be THE track of all tracks to bring people back for another listen.  I enjoy the strange and bizarre side of music, so for myself, “Theme For Lost Doll Found In Abandoned Psychiatric Hospital Part 2” was fairly welcome…for others, you might very well need to listen to this track with the lights on for your comfort.  The low-end is killer, the scattered sounds in the atmosphere are wildly interesting & intriguing…it’s not so much about hooks here as it is about creating a piece of mischievous art to finish things off…I like it.

Make sure to find out more about Psykobilly from the official website at Caretaker Studios, right here:

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