Sludgy, sleazy “rock & roll” music: from this comes the stuff Psychic Ills have aggressively channeled into One Track Mind, the group’s fourth album in the decade since they got together. Just like 2011’s Hazed Dream, One Track Mind has Psychic Ills striving towards a more accessible notion of psychedelic guitar rock than was endemic to their early career. For Psychic Ills, who have proven to be capable of ferocious musical curve-balls this is an underhanded toss; though One Track Mind is not without its merits: articulate production, effervescent vocals, and even some idiosyncratic chord progressions. Ultimately, though, One Track Mind should be relegated to the background of a cheap night out; a hideous montage filled with infuriating glimmers of past promise.
The first thing you might notice about One Track Mind is how much it seems to borrow from psych / mod rock revival acts of the 1990s like Oasis and The Verve. You could even make a case for One Track Mind as the best possible album Oasis could have recorded past the watershed moment that was Be Here Now. “City Sun” – which is introduced with the tried and true (and terrible) sound of a throat being cleared and the word “check” – sounds like acoustic, brit pop filler, albeit with the pleasant addition of some weirdly affected harmonica.
This isn’t to say that the nostalgia on One Track Mind is all bad, or that it overwhelms the album completely. On the Oasis-ly titled driver “I Get By”, Tres Warren’s stunted lyrics are offset by squawky and compressed guitar riffs which, intermittently, break perfectly into solos across the track’s highway momentum. And western rocker “Might Take A While” has just enough life in its chord changes to maybe put a smile on your face; at least until its Rolling Stones via the BQE chorus vocals kick in.
“Western Metaphor” might be the only song on One Track Mind to (even vaguely) remind us of Psychic Ills’ dronier, dazier days, with wide panning guitar lines that splatter around the room of the song. Ultimately even this song comes to put all of its weight on what I have to angrily describe as “rhythm guitar.” Psychic Ills are afforded a lot of room to breathe by some truly inspired production, and they should be given some credit for not persisting in the aimless guitar floundering that plagues the psych-rock genre. But these songs are so minimally variant from psych-rock’s most ordinary moments that not even the steady production save them from a passionless delivery.
The cleanness of the guitars and the upfrontness of the production is, in some ways, pretty invigorating; when I first pressed play on opener “One More Time” I fully expected that I’d be giving this album as solid a review as a “rock and roll” album will get from me. But even after numerous listens there is little depth to be discovered on One Track Mind, and the album has left me a pretty bored and even a little angry. Though it may not always be appropriate to criticize a band’s new releases against their own backlog (I personally think that music criticism should be encouraging of artists whowant to try new things), the promising Psychic Ills may have jumped the shark on One Track Mind.