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Music Review: Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ – Songs from the Psychedelic Time Clock

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Back in the 1980s, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ (DNC) were most often mentioned in comparisons with performers such as The Ramones, Patti Smith, The Clash, and Iggy Pop. Back then, they produced hard-driving albums like Scarred but Smarter (1986), Whisper Tames the Lion (1988), Mystery Road (1989), and Fly Me Courageous (1991). Time went by, solo projects came and went, and then the reinvigorated Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ returned with their first studio album in 12 years, (Whatever Happened To The) Great American Bubble Factory (2009).

Then in 2012, Kevn Kinney (guitar and vocals), Tim Nielsen (bass), Dave V. Johnson (drums), and Sadler Vaden (guitar) released two of their projected four EP series, Songs from the Laundromat and Songs About Cars. The point of these EPs was and is to release new music with as much immediacy as possible. DNC believes this process avoids the two-year build-ups major album releases tend to come with these days. Now the third EP has arrived, Songs from the Psychedelic Time Clock. This time you’re not going to think Ramones, Clash, or Iggy. You’re going to hear very overt evocations of The Seeds, Electric Prunes, Blues Magoos, Balloon Farm, and the countless one-hit wonders sometimes labeled garage rock, sometimes psychedelic pop, sometimes ’60s punk rock.

In fact, Psychedelic Time Clock is the perfect title for this six-song assembly. It’s likely to inspire old-timers to dust off our black light posters, fill up our incense burners, dangle bead curtains in our doors, and bring out an old LP with a gatefold cover to help clean out those pesky seeds and stems. It’s a set full of fuzz guitars, sitars, spacey sound-effects, and vocals bouncing around echo chambers.

To nail down what it’s all about, the opener, “The Little Records Store Just Around the Corner,” is a litany of groups like Count Five and Mitch Ryder’s Detroit Wheels that Kinney and the boys used to collect on old-fashioned vinyl. You don’t have to be a student of the ’60s to recognize the “ba ba bas” of “Upside Down Round and Round” as echoes of the singles popular on AM Top 40. The jangle of guitars used by the Byrds and Beatles provide the riffs for the instrumental title song, “The Psychedelic Time Clock.”

The main distinction between this collection from the albums it emulates is that none of the numbers would qualify as a hot single. Garage rock bands were, in the main, best known for the hits that drove album sales that were otherwise full of poppy filler. Unless you’re a collector of now esoteric LPs, the genre is now best known for collections like the Nuggets box sets and similar compilations.

For some listeners, Songs from the Psychedelic Time Clock would be enjoyable listening for what amounts to a clever homage to the breed of music remembered by one generation but largely unknown by younger rock fans. For Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ fans, the set is another good display of chargin’ rock performances by a gang of four who know how to be versatile and tight. Ba baba ba.

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About Wesley Britton