Various Artists - The Psychedelic Sounds of the Sonic Cathedral - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Various Artists - The Psychedelic Sounds of the Sonic Cathedral

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2010-06-07

Since former 13th Floor Elevators' frontman Roky Erickson is undergoing something of a career renaissance right now (his new album with Okkervil River, Love Cast Out All Evil, got 7.5 on this very site), it's timely to have a reminder of what the man's legend is build upon. The Psychedelic Sounds of the Sonic Cathedral goes some way to providing such a service, in as much as it proves Erickson is still a potent reference point for many of today's bands.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this tribute album focuses on primarily on Erickson's time in The 13th Floor Elevators rather than the solo years marred by bouts of poor mental health. In fact, seven of the 13 songs here are from The 13th Floor Elevators' legendary debut, The Psychedelic Sounds of... (hence this compilation's title, of course). The album kicks off with bullish a live rendition of 'Roller Coaster' by Roky himself, dueting with The Black Angels, something that may well make this a must-have for Erickson fans.

Somewhat inevitably, the best tracks here are the ones that take the originals and do something different with them. Examples of this are few and far between, however, the best being A Place to Bury Strangers' blistering version of 'Tried to Hide', which reimages the hippy head-shake of the original as a stonking 80s indie-goth-dance anthem in the manner of Jesus and Mary Chain or Sisters of Mercy. Darker My Love also breathe new life into 'She Lives (in a Time of Her Own)' from The Elevators' second album Easter Everywhere, turning it into a raggedy indie-pop number. Meanwhile, Sarabeth Tucek gives 'Splash 1 (Now I'm Home)' a desolate, fragile Nico-esque reworking that's genuinely lovely.

The compilation seems to be divided roughly into two halves, the first droney and shoegazey; the second more acoustic and folksy. Unfortunately, too many songs play to the less interesting aspects of both trends. So 'Don't Fall Down' by The Saints and 'Kingdom of Heaven' by Dead Meadow are sludgy, sulky and a little charmless, while 'You Don't Love Me Yet' by Cheval Sombre and 'I Like the Living You' by Le Volume Courbe are pretty but also pretty dull.

Ultimately, if you're a 13th Floor Elevators/ Roky Erickson diehard fan, there's enough good stuff here to make this tribute a worthwhile purchase. If you're a casual fan looking for more, ignore this and go and buy Love Cast Out All Evil. If, on the other hand, you've read this far wondering who this Roky chap is what and his 13th Floor Elevators are all about, seek out The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators and start from there.

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