Wearing your heart on your sleeve isn’t in style for today’s garage rockers, unless your heart is full of generalized animosity and weird vibes like Gentleman Jesse or Acid Baby Jesus. So the Wytches’ willingness to flout their chosen genre’s current fashion rules — no crying, or at least no wallowing — is part of what makes the U.K. trio so refreshing. Their gloomily psychedelic debut Annabel Dream Reader is drowning in emotion, which the threesome pours on by the bucketful.
It’s all highly stylized in an almost Tim Burtonish way, yet frontman Kristian Bell comes across plainly confessional when he sings on “Part-Time Model,” “I must admit I felt a little sick, I think I swallowed too much pride.” The whole album, built on Bell’s lurid surf riffs, could be a rock opera set in the mind of a sensitive young man driven to delirious nervous collapse by whiskey and women. On songs like “Fragile Male for Sale,” Bell sounds as wigged out as Jack White and as wounded as Conor Oberst, his guitar wailing and moaning as he sings complaints like “you sit there and watch as my dignity collapses.”
By introducing just the right touch of soppy melodrama, the Wytches set themselves surprisingly far apart from the current crop of youths wielding reverbed guitars and ’60s psych inspirations — even the other moody ones like La Luz. Taking things too far is always a good look for rock ‘n’ roll.