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Night Beats (Seattle, WA, U.S.A.)

bad music for bad people

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Edited by bad music for bad people
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Night Beats - S/T




If your idea of a good time is tinny, fuzz-drenched garage rock in the vein of Sky Saxon and the Seeds, I’ve got a hell of a find for you. Sure, you’ll want to hold onto your old Electric Prunes LPs, but a new release – the self-titled album from Night Beats – can sit proudly alongside those garage psych nuggets of yesteryear. Hell, even the CD sleeve looks like an LP sleeve.

Hopelessly reverbed guitars are the order of the day here. Sneering vocals and a production aesthetic only a few notches above demo-quality are what you’ll find. The yelping, edge-of-dementia vocal on tracks like “Ain’t Dumbo” call to mind what Marc Bolan might have sounded like were he playing with bandmates in a garage in, say, Elgin, Illinois.

Night Beats have nailed the garage aesthetic: for all I know, they’re the tightest, most expert players on the globe. Yet somehow I doubt it. And frankly, if they were, the songs on this album would probably be less wonderful. There’s a white-guys-not-quite-getting-the-blues vibe on “Dial 666,” and it’s note-perfect: just like the Seeds tried to pull off on A Full Spoon of Seedy Blues. On “The Other Side,” they attempt what every self-respecting garage band tried in ’66: rewriting The Ventures‘ “Walk, Don’t Run.” They succeed as well as any of those guys born in 1950 did, that’s for sure. They do depart from the mid-sixties approach just a bit: the song runs seven minutes, heading into some deeply electrified proto-Blue Cheer territory toward the end. But a wailing harmonica keeps the garage vibe happening.

At its core, rock and roll is a derivative genre, so no points shall be deducted from Night Beats for conjuring up the ghosts of old. They do what they do with no discernible sense of irony, no in-it-for-the-laughs attitude. To paraphrase Mr. Lydon, they mean it, man.

There’s an ever-so-slight country stomp feel to “Useless Game,” but it’s country filtered through the garage mindset. The band careens through the song, threatening to fall apart at any moment. They never do crash, but the net effect suggests a delightfully 60s version of The Replacements. Some manic (and chaotic) lead guitar smacks (heh) of the Velvet Underground.

Talk about truth in labeling: with a title like “Dewayne’s Drone,” it’s got to be psych. And it is. Imagine a savant version of Ringo‘s drumming on “Tomorrow Never Knows” and you’ll have a sense of this song’s underpinning. The brief “Hallucinojenny” is aptly titled as well: squalls of distorted electric guitar are piled atop a boxy drum figure. It almost swings, the way that MC5 would swing. Maybe swagger is a better word.

“Ain’t a Ghost” is structured around the most elementary and insistent of drum patterns. It’s aggressive and noisy, which makes “Meet Mr. Fork” seem like a musical left turn. With its shimmering almost-in-tune jangly guitars and tambourine to propel it along, the song is the closest Night Beats come to pop a la The Byrds. There are even some (shudder!) vocal harmonies.

The opening lead guitar lick on “War Games” has a thick layer of hiss. Anywhere else this would be a problem. In the context of Night Beats, it works. The song has a vaguely “Paint It, Black” vibe. A lovely sub-raga solo and wailing, wordless vocal carries the second half of the track. The band slows things down on “High Noon Blues,” and the result is a sort of cross between 60s garage and Kerosene Hat-era Cracker.

The band is all-in for the closer “Little War in the Midwest.” Nothing musically new is on offer, but the track distills and restates the approach the preceding eleven songs have laid out. Screeches and wails, a vocal approach you’ll either love or have given up on by now; drumming that’s only slightly faster than a plod yet somehow aggressive; and impossibly atonal guitar sounds that suggest what Plastic Ono Band sounded like in Toronto after they left the stage. The second half of the track features combo organ, snare drum and backwards-masked vocal mutterings. Fun stuff.

Night Beats stay inside their particular bag for the whole of the record. If I overdubbed some surface noise and crackle, I could play you this disc and sell it to you as a lost nugget from forty-five years ago. In its own way, Night Beats is every bit as authentic a relic as (I thought) Spur of the Moments was. If you’re in the mood for some time travel, Night Beats can certainly take you there.






Night Beats - Sonic Bloom




Word has it that Night Beats (Danny Lee on guitar and vocals, Tarek Wegner on bass and vocals, James Traeger on drums) were signed to a label within six weeks of self-releasing their debut EP (H-Bomb) in 2010.  I can believe it, because their first full-length record, Night Beats, was excellent and their follow-up, Sonic Bloom, is just as good.  I’m surprised they weren’t signed within six days.

The album opens with the rolling and rocking “Love Ain’t Strange (Everything Else Is).”  The band explodes out of the gate with Lee’s hot, crispy fried guitar, Wegner’s bass line that will make hip-hop producers envious, and Traeger’s thundering drums.  The vocals, with their Wall of Sound feel, flatten you, but the band never lets you fall down.  They keep you with them the whole time.

The title track has this great “fuzzy” feel to it.  You can practically see the incense smoke (and heaven knows what else) drifting past you as hippie girls with flower wreaths on their heads dance behind you and tempt you to leave the cubicle and get in their van.

“Playing Dead” is what you might have to do to escape that smoky van, but you won’t want to escape this song.  It sounds like something you heard on an 8-track in a weird flea market, but it’s really a lovely love song.

No, the next track, “Outta Mind,” is not a rare MC5 B-side.  It is, however, a solid slice of psychedelic rock that will have your toes tapping and your head bobbing.  Traeger sounds like he had a great time banging it out, Wegner seemed to record the bass line in a strip club, and Lee goes wonderfully nuts on it with his guitar and vocals.

“Real Chance” has enough reverb in it for an entire album, let alone one song.  That alone makes it a groovy cut.  “Satisfy Your Mind” is even groovier with its swamp boogie beats.  “Catch a Ride to Sonic Bloom” is a wicked ninety-degree turn that sends you straight into a mind-trip minefield as Lee’s guitar wavers back and forth from psych-surf to almost a sitar-like sound.  Then Wegner and Traeger come in and your face melts.  It’s mind-blowing, and one of the heaviest cuts on the record.

There’s only a moment to breathe before “The Seven Poison Wonders” kicks your mind down the rabbit hole and you are in full-blown peyote mind warp without the peyote.  I don’t know how Lee can make his guitar sound the way it does on this track.  Is he using effects pedals?  Playing it with an egg whisk?  Using an amp he bought from Old Scratch?

“As You Want” is the shortest cut on the album, but it’s two minutes and seven seconds of straight-up psych-rock (with perhaps Lee’s hottest solo on the record) that will leave you craving more.  Thankfully, “The Hidden Circle” reveals itself as the next track and will have you dancing like you just experienced a moment of enlightenment.  “Rat King” shows the band’s love of The Stooges and has one of my favorite lyrics on the record (“Don’t get too close unless you wanna be a ghost.”).

“At the Gates” brings in a wild saxophone and a groovy organ to roll along with the trio, and the results are fantastic.  Literally.  The song inspires fantasies of late Las Vegas nights with the Rat Pack, ending up at a key party in Ann Margaret’s penthouse at the Sands, and waking up with someone’s phone number written on your buttock with lipstick.

The album ends with “The New World,” which is a great name for the last song on this record because you will see the world as something new after you’ve heard this.  You can’t hear this record and not be intrigued and fascinated by it, and thus the world around you.  Sonic Bloom is one of my top records of the last year, and Night Beats are easily one of my new favorite live acts.  Let this album bloom in your mind.






Night Beats - Who Sold My Generation




Seattle garage trio Night Beats make their Heavenly Records debut with their brazen third LP, Who Sold My Generation. Fronted by guitar slinger Danny Lee Blackwell, Night Beats have amassed a fairly substantial catalog in their six years together, issuing a variety of different singles and compilation tracks alongside their two previous albums. With regard to their overall sound, not a great deal has changed since they first dropped their debut single, "H-Bomb," in 2010. Their talent for brash, riffy psych-rock with plenty of attitude remains their greatest strength, and their marriage of Nuggets-era sounds with the contemporary lo-fi aesthetic of 21st century garage revivalists puts them in league with other prominent West Coast acts like Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall. As on 2013's Sonic Bloom, reverb is king and Night Beats' swagger is captured here in a thick cacophony of the stuff as Blackwell's ace guitar work bounces wildly around the room on standouts like the free-ranging "Sunday Mourning" and the hooky single "No Cops." With its radio static, vintage broadcast samples, and spoken incantations, experimental opener "Celebration #1" sets a freewheeling, almost anarchistic tone and Night Beats do manage to maintain that energy, if not the mischievous intent, throughout the album. Like a lot of bands playing in this ultimately familiar style, there's a feeling that they probably slay it on-stage, harnessing the energy of a wild bar crowd and working their vintage rock magic. On record, they do retain some of that magnetism, but much of their songwriting seems to simply serve their musical style without making that much of an impact. There are exceptions, of course, especially with album closer "Egypt Berry," which is easily this album's strongest track. Who Sold My Generation certainly has all the right moves and is probably Night Beats' best album to date, but to get the full effect, look for them on tour.




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