Since his debut in 2017, Garcia Peoples’ biggest challenge has been to make people forget their names. You won’t name your psychedelic rock band after the most famous member of the most famous psychedelic rock band of all time if you’re not up to the challenge. And while their particular journey has often taken them through the astral wake of the Grateful Dead, over the past five years they have steadily broadened their sound and ambition with a touch of dub, tacky brew bitches jazz and tetchy post-punk. They’re too nervous to be a real jam band, but they jam way too much to be anything else. Tax avoidancethe fifth studio album from the New Jersey sextet, evokes some of the 2020 wear and tear Nightcap at Wits’ End, but its easy tour of muscular riff-rock, needy song suites and revving pastoral folk further settles into a sound worth taking on its own merits. If you pick up this record hoping to hear someone imitate Jerry Garcia’s tiger guitar tone, look elsewhere.
Tax avoidance was recorded in a few sessions in 2020, with Superwolves maestro Matt Sweeney in the producer’s chair. While relatively neat at 34 minutes in length, the sense of patience and control makes the run time seem wider, if not longer; where most rock groups’ studio improvisations feel unnaturally compressed by the band’s awareness of an album’s shape and size, here Garcia Peoples never sounds burdened by much of anything. Their overall ease and comfort, aided by the clarity of Sweeney’s production, give these seven songs a sense of fluid communication as they move through styles; even if the details fade in memory, the feel of their conversation is easy to internalize.
Tax avoidance is built around the trio of ‘Cold Dice’, ‘Tough Freaks’ and ‘Stray Cats’, a musically interlocking triptych of songs whose lyrics circle the exhaustion of city life in search of a place to catch your breath. Danny Arakaki, Tom Malach and Derek Spaldo’s guitars pass each other like pedestrians on a busy crosswalk, get entangled, split again, and follow elongated paths that seem to follow no logic, but they never stumble into dissonance. “Sick of dodging dues,” they sing in “Tough Freaks,” “stop wasting all your time.” This is ordered, well-directed music about the importance of an ordered, well-directed life. “Heal me with the truth, you impeccable one,” reads a line in “Cassandra,” a song so mannered and traditional in its expectations that you expect it to take its hat off as you pass.
It’s Garcia Peoples playing to their strengths. While their form of psychedelia is still firmly in the business, their form of psychedelia has more in common with Kikagaku Moyo, Dungen and Chris Forsyth, the latter of whom they’ve backed live – all artists who use the clicked-in propulsion of krautrock to perform their wildest. to keep trips firmly within the barriers. For Garcia Peoples, this sense of restraint makes their music more compelling and allows them to undermine expectations. Just when you’d expect the closer “Fill Your Cup” mid-solo to degenerate into a triumphant shred, it suddenly strobes and buries itself in the belly of the song. Where most bands would pull off a radiant, imperial solo to round out something like the aforementioned three-song run, Garcia Peoples on “Stray Cats” gives you mosquito hum for 10 seconds, then rest.
This dedication to some form of efficient and orderly travel – musical or otherwise – runs much of the album. In “Here We Are” the guitars go ballet-like, intertwine, hit down, jump back up again. They are not quite interlocking or parallel or phasing; Sweeney places them just close enough to force you to contemplate the empty space their dance creates. Listening to it is like locating the holes in a healthy monstera.
Even when things get loud, they don’t get heavy. Opener “False Company”, a meaty goodbye to a fake friend, pumps by to an oil derrick beat from drummer Cesar Arakaki and bassist Andy Cush (who is also an editor at Pitchfork), as the guitars smoke a low and slow barbecue riff. It’s an almost absurdly muscular song, the kind you can imagine banging the hood while cracking a cold beer, but the atmosphere is pure light: “Now that the weight is lifted,” Pat Gubler sings,” There is a joy in my heart that returns to me.”
You can hear a touch of Thin Lizzy in ‘False Company’ and a lot of ZZ Top. There’s Fairport Convention in ‘Cassandra’ and, yes, the Grateful Dead pretty much everywhere else. Tax avoidance isn’t interested in breaking new ground for psychedelic rock, which isn’t a criticism: wandering a well-maintained garden path can be far more satisfying than working your way through the brush. Lyrically and musically, this album is built to emulate the bliss of the mind that can come with following an expertly manicured path, which is another way of saying it goes where it pleases without worrying about it. weight of other people’s expectations. You can travel so much further if you pack light.
Buying: Rough Trading
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