I’m at Psychfest in Austin, levitating around the fairgrounds, waiting for the Black Angels to come on between Roky Erikson of the 13th Floor Elevators and the long-awaited reunion of the Moving Sidewalks (featuring Billy Gibbons of Z.Z. Top), when someone asks me the what-if question: What if there was no album named Nuggets 40 years ago, in that interregnum before garage-rock had a name and place to park the guitar? I can only reply that its spirit is eternal and elemental, and I was lucky to ride its moment; but it’s hardly confined to the Then (good band name). Many are the new bands who renew themselves in Nuggets‘ wellspring, who sift and take the music into the present tense and often, though nodding to the psychic energies of what came before, propel it ever further into the next dimension. When spirit guide J. Edward Keyes asked me to test-drive the current hybrid vehicles, all new names on my horizon, without the GPS of where they come from or why, I got behind the wheel, opened the garage door and went for a spin.
Lithe and airy, this evokes West Coast psychedelia at its most pastoral, mingled with some of the whimsy of early Pink Floyd. Gardner's emphasis on gentle melody, harmonic confluence and invitation-to-waltz time ("Watching The Moon") makes for a pleasurable woodland romp that evokes a child-like sense of wonder. Acoustic guitars and keyboard textures that run the gamut from wheezy to mellotron add to the feel of fantasia.
Sonic Forefather: Sagittarius, Gentle Soul
Splitting the difference between primitivo-snarl ("Bed Rock") and the doo-wop ("Ozma" and "Into A Dream"), Shannon and her Clams straddle the line between fore-and-aft '60s musical genres. The arrangements are tuneful, the guitar lines crisp ("In The River"), and Shannon's rough-hewn voice ("In The Rat House") adds an askew note to the band's bomp-and-stomp. Closing the album with a version of Del Shannon's "Runaway" seems a perfect historical marker.
Sonic Forefather: Goldie and the Gingerbreads, Chocolate Watch Band
With the jangle of hard-strummed electric guitars and an irresistible forward motion, Gentleman Jesse has as much Eddie and the Hot Rods and even the Jam in their gig bag as overt '60s references. "You Give Me Shivers" is straight ahead and pure of heart; "We Gotta Get Out Of Here" is a sing-a-long worthy of continuing long past the chorus fade. "Frostbite" has the most garage-rock overtones, but this is more a matter of texture than direct reference. Songs like these feel timeless in any era.
Sonic Forefather: The Leaves, Standells
Awash in reverb and mood enhancers, the People's Temple create an atmosphere truly "Texas Revisited," embracing trippy International Artists like the Red Krayola and Bubble Puppy, bone-shaking a tambourine ("Nevermore," "Looter's Game"), and mumbo-jumboing poetics (House of Fools"). Alternately soaring, dislocating, unsettling and uplifting, the album culminates in the phantasmagoria of "(Dark Dreams) Distant Memories," a hymn to the glories found in a millisecond's delay by way of Jane's Addiction. Pass the Kool-Aid.
Sonic Forefather: 13th Floor Elevators
A cwazy wabbit plays wock 'n' woll. Opening with the familiar Human Beinz' riffage of "Nobunny Loves You," this wackoid group is in it for the wild card. Goofing on themselves as well as you, it's easy to overlook the songcraft and clever repartee in "I Am A Girlfriend," the Ramoniac "Tina Goes To Work," and the most perfect of shredding guitar solos in "I Know, I Know." Counting backwards from '70s punk — as in "Somewhere New (The Yolks)" — ace cut honors are shared by "Boneyard," with its precision chopper chords, and the plaintive cry of "Mess Me Up."
Sonic Forefather: The Music Explosion, the Third Rail
A winning combination of gal-group sassiness and chirping vocals, Peach Kelli Pop's shake-it-up shimmy couldn't be more infectious. It's as if the Angels of "My Boyfriend's Back" took up surfing ("True Blue") and then got dolled up for a night at the local punk emporium ("Red Leather") dancing to the Go-Go's. Garage more in spirit than specific homage, there is an unleashed joy in these tracks, the trinity of three rotating chords and the way they infinitely fit together.
Sonic Foremother: The Kingsmen, Strawberry Alarm Clock
As amplifiers got larger and garage got heavier as the '60s progressed, heralding the coming reign of '70s metal, the soundscape turned primordial, heading toward psychic overload. In tracks like "Faces In The Shadows" and "Gettin' Mean," Human Eye show no fear in the face of speakers crying for mercy and vocals strangulating ("Buzzin' Flies"). There is a moment that lulls you into thinking they might let up their audio assault in "Surface of Pluto," but then a fuzz-wave kicks in and the stun returns in all its orbital glory. Turn up the sludge.
Sonic Forefather: Blue Cheer
Big and brutal, the feedback sustains and pound-for-pounding percussion and distorto vocals signal that this is a group no stranger to audio hallucination. "Tyrannosaurus Rex" has a jurassic joy in breaking through its sedimentary layers, "Homo Sapiens" is positively Neanderthal, while even an "Old Fart" – to crib an ABJ song title -- like myself can appreciate the fountain of youth that their take on classic lysergic haze signifies. "Mesmerized" has a dizzying revolve that is not far from Velvet Underground territory, while "Horse" quotes from the Brit Invasion before the inevitable rave-up.
Sonic Forefather: The Sonics
Clattery and amphetamine-amped, this garage-on-speed ("Hate This Town," "Right Quick," "Far Removed") is similar to what transpired in the '70s when punk took its inspiration from the garage vernacular and hot-rodded it. The Hussy are a headlong rush, and "Woodland Creature," with its indelible guitar hook, shows they full well know to where they're hurtling. There are a couple of songs about mortality, "Dying" and "Dead To Me," but this band's sense of resurrection shows that this music has afterlife to spare.
Sonic Forefather: Gonn, Amboy Dukes
Brandishing a 12-string ("Miracle"), a thick Farfisa-esque underlay ("Disconnection"), and a melodic flair ("I Am"), Radar Eyes covers all the elements of what made the garage sound so universal, able to be taken in any direction. "Side of the Road" even moves into Suicide territory with its hypnotic synths and ominous vocal, while "Prairie Puppies" takes it even further with the feel of the Jesus and Mary Chain.
Sonic Forefather: Clefs of Lavender Hill,Third Bardo