Psychic Ills has entered their tenth year as a band, and now released their fourth album. But let’s be honest, the psych-rock, ambient-punk scene hides in dark, smelly, dirty dive bars, not the trendy dive bars popping up next to starbucks. Despite Psychic Ills rocking for ten years, chances are good you haven’t listened to them. But “One Track Mind” is a great album to jump in on. It’s the most direct album for the group. And calling it straightforward is comical. Yet Psychic Ills are a dream-come-true psych-punk band. And that means that predictability was thrown out the window, doused in gasoline, lit on fire, and scorched into the earth.
The canvas Psychic Ills have splashed paint on is wide, and grey. The stripes of black and white they whipped down, with splatters strewing erratically over the low-key persona. Imagine a grayscale mohawk, and the animatronic band from Chuck-E-Cheese dressed in leather, Psychic Ills feel robotic on some of their ambient and spacy jams. Other songs express deeply introverted anarchy, but lack the color and flair of 80’s crust punk. As the band has progressed in transforming rock, more blues rhythms have appeared as the lead sled dog, while psych, punk, trance, and minimalist carry the weight.
This album could serve as two separate soundtracks. Grabbing a pack of Marlborough Reds, and a fifth of Jack Daniels and headed out down the desert roads, you could blast this album as you and your friends clown around on a summer night. Or you could lock yourself up in a Brooklyn apartment, throw the album your record player, and get lost on a Sunday afternoon, contemplating Marx.
Most the bands that will be discussed under surRealReviews are able to induce holistic emotions. For Psychic Ills, that just means that they transport you into an atmosphere, an atmosphere that often feels like another dimension, real but secluded. No matter how different the songs, the feel is encompassing. And “One Track Mind” is unique because of the lines it toes. And the lines between ambient and punk, psychedelic and minimalistic are the same lines they toe between The Kills and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, with a high latency of new wave punk. There is an evocative and melancholy sensation that’s blinded by the transcendental ideals that make Psychic Ills so damn indefinable. And that is what keeps me so magnetized to psychedelic and punk.
I was also self-aware about my rebellion as a kid. I tried not to let it hurt those around, but I always seemed to find trouble in the strangest places. So I spent many nights wondering what the crime would be that found me in jail. Would it involve an innocent bystander in the path of my anarchy, or would it be selfish and inconsiderate, instead of my “for the people” attitude. I often assumed, if or when I did jail time it would justifiable in my memoir. But that always led me to one big, metaphysical, contemplative question, “what album would I sing to myself during my first night in jail?” I often assumed it would be Bob Dylan’s “Slow Train Coming,” or maybe Rancid’s “Let’s Go!” But upon immediate listening to of “One Track Mind” by the Psychic Ills, it was decided this is the first album I would sing to myself after being thrown in the slammer. With “FBI” being the crust and “I Get By” being the sauce and cheese, “One Track Mind” is a delectable pizza of punk and psych, and sprinkled with red peppers of western music.
To say that Psychic Ills have transformed and evolved is a misunderstanding. The have shed their skins like snakes in the progression of life. And their skins are unique, but remain unchanged, and I think that’s a good thing, a respectable admiration.