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Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet: Heavy Psych

by Mike McGuirk

Cheat Sheet: Heavy Psych


"Heavy psych." Just the words themselves sound cool. When someone says a band plays heavy psych, you immediately at least have an idea of what you're in for. Specifically, super loud guitars, howling feedback and long floating sections that sound like you're docking your space craft on, um, Uranus. Or maybe Saturn. Anyway, fun, fun, fun.

That said, psychedelic music, as a whole, can be kind of annoying when it's too poppy (The Zombies) or too plink-plink-y (basically anything that the Ba-Da Bing! label used to put out). But when the music is a combination of heavy metal and space rock (see Blue Cheer and Hawkwind) or a more Stooge-punk hybrid like Monoshock, I, personally, can't get enough. Then there's all the Japanese dudes Acid Mothers Temple (the very definition of psych rock), Mainliner (the definition of heavy psych) and Boredoms (good luck). There is a wide range of styles and bands that fall under this umbrella. And the line goes from the '60s all the way up to the present day.

Granted, this music is not for everybody, and psychedelic music, is, in the end, utterly personal. Even some fans of heavy psych who love the glacial crush of My Bloody Valentine will hate Captain Beyond. No matter, because the idea is to bring the listener to a different level of consciousness. That in itself is a very specific and ambitious concept that lends itself to extreme subjectivity, so it's no wonder.

Ugh. That's complicated, and this is turning into a term paper. Really, who cares about all that? The fact is, this music below sounds good when you play it loud, and if drugs were legal, it'd probably be fun to take them while listening to it.

I've offered a good dozen-plus albums here that represent both the breadth of styles and some of the high points this positively enchanting genre of music has to offer. But be careful. There are a lot of repetitive, crazy sounds, lyrics that are possibly about wizards, and blaring volumes. Please try not to go insane.