Psychic Graveyard – Veins Feel Strange

5 out of 5

Label: Deathbomb Arc

Produced by: Seth Manchester

I’ve been waiting for this. Waiting since Yahweh or the Highway ravaged my ears, and taught me what, exactly, I wanted no-wave music to evolve into; how I wanted the early punky skronk of Arab on Radar to become atonal awesomeness, caught between noise and drone and the bombast of something like Flying Luttenbachers (no coincidence that Weasel Walter produced that album…), married to somehow irrepressibly catchy riffs that simultaneously annoyed anyone not so AOR-inclined for whom I’d play the album.

And various related projects have formed and fled in the wake of that album and band, always informed by a similar herky-jerky beat and Eric Paul’s obsessive lyrics and whiny delivery, and very much playing with an electro-funk style of sweaty dancefloor rock that made sense as an extension of Arab’s sound… but not really what I was looking for. Great in its own way, but would we ever tap into the grand aural offense of Yahweh again?

So with each project, each release, I’ve been waiting. Hoping.

Veins Feel Strange isn’t AOR-redux, already clear from the band’s earlier releases / singles; in full transparency, I’ve only sampled previous album A Bluebird Vacation, so it’s possible a deeper listen of that will prompt similar praise I’m about to drop on this album, but the buildup Skin Graft releases still hung on the Chinese Star / Doomsday Student aforementioned electro-funk, albeit recorded with a bit of a “harsher” sound reminiscent of AOR, while my taste tests of Bluebird seem like the group jumping clear on to the other side of the line – a very heavy sound; very intense and mean. I’m looking forward to digging into that more.

Until then, I have Veins Feel Strange to listen to again, and again, as what I’ve been waiting for is the next evolution: what lies beyond Yahweh? And I feel like Paul and crew have finally found it. Psychic Graveyard here emerge as a band inspired and informed by the past, but wholly delivering their own sound and themes, the album’s nervy topics wandering between offhand musings on death and puzzled – almost naive – examinations of the modern world. While the organic / metal mash-up cover artwork is not new to PG’s albums, it finally feels “right,” based on the subject matter, but also the music’s sound, which maintains Bluebird’s edge while upping the groove ante, and then also bringing in a slightly looser jangle. It’s robotic; it’s angular; it’s poppy; it’s programmed; it’s loose. Paul is both amused and unnerved in his singing; his words are ho-hum about the world and then equally disturbed by it.

Seth Manchester returns on productions and underlines the experience with a constant buzz – a mechanical, levels-maxed-out vibe – from which guitars and synths and drums and bass and whatever pop out to say ‘boo,’ establishing a head-bobbing beat as soon as they’re on the scene and then, out of breath, dropping back into that buzz to come at us from another angle. I think exhaustion has plagued a lot of post-Yahweh releases – albums became same-soundy after a while – but Veins never dips, nor does it repeat. Each song has some piece to add to the picture, and a new catchy riff to go along with it, hanging around the perfect amount of time to leave a memory but not overdo it.

Maybe we peak here, and Psychic Graveyard dips back into other sounds, or morphs into another band. But I’m no longer waiting for what Yahweh or the Highway could / would become; Veins Feel Strange finds a new marker in the journey, and now it’s a question of where we go from here.