The Stevenson Ranch Davidians - Amerikana

by Jeff Penczak Rating:6 Release Date:2017-06-09

The psychedelic wingnuts have a new single out called ‘Wack Magick’ (included here), which brings to mind those wackos from Waco, the Branch Davidians, who inspired the punny name. See, these folks are from Stevenson Ranch (outside El Lay) and, why, hell, if goofy mashups like The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre work, why not come up with one of our own. (In another synchronous move, BJM keyboardist Rob Campanella is another recent addition to the traditionally revolving door line-up on guitar.) The Davidians began about a decade ago and self-released a few albums which garnered some interest in the psych community before going silent (underground?!) around 2009. They’ve now signed to Minneapolis-based Picture In My Ear and return with the difficult third album and a mostly new line-up (founder and mainstay Dwayne Seagraves and bassist Jessica Latiolait are joined by Campanella, his brother Andy on drums, and Misha Bullock on guitar).

The first thing longtime fans will notice (on the aforementioned ‘Wack Magic’ et. al.) is a more aggressive crunch to the guitars and vocals, an undeniable BJM influence tempered with that band’s Stonesy swagger, and irreverent time changes hinting at a few 13th Floor Elevators’ records in their collective collections. Lead single ‘Holy Life’ is imbued with the more psychedelic explorations of Eric Burdon and The Animals’ “67-’68 albums. ‘Love Is A Big Light’ is a lazy, woozy singalong that suggests extra-curricular imbibing of substances (not quite Screamadelica, but in the bong, er, ballpark), although ‘Hard Livin’ is just bored (and boring) rambling, man.

The band recover with the jolly jaunt, ‘Binary Bop’, and Side 2 returns to familiar meandering, bluesy headswirlers of the past with the gospel-inflected confessional ‘Om g’ [sic] that sounds like it fell off the backend of an old Kula Shaker “acid-ate”. I could’ve done without Seagraves’ coyote yelps, though. Most psych/jam bands can’t resist the temptation to whip out their pseudo-Jerry guitar shuffles and ‘PsyOp’ fits the bill quite nicely, even if it does wear out its welcome halfway through.

Finally, there’s an ‘Amazing Grace’-like elegiac strain to ‘The High Meadows’ that threatens to take off into a U2 soapbox sermon and will have the punters flashing lighters at venues the world over (or at least through their West Coast swing throughout July). The less said ‘bout the shitkickin’ ho-de-o-do, ode to masturbation, ‘Pillow Sittin’’ the better, unless, perhaps, if ‘Dead Flowers’ ‘Sweet Virginia’ and ‘Country Honk’ are at the top of your Stones’ All Time Top Ten Tunes.

So, a point or two for trying something new, but sometimes the old ways are the best ways. Let’s hold judgment until we hear the next album and put this one down to feeling their oats and hope they’ll return to their senses, as fucked up as they may be, next time.

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