There is a spirit in the Detroit music scene that fosters comradery, creativity and competition. It crosses genre, class and race. To be a Detroit musician today is to be part of a very unique and powerful music tribe. In the shadow of Motown and with the footfalls of giants like the MC5 and Iggy and the Stooges still echoing on long darkened stages, the Detroit psychedelic community has been slowly growing, getting stronger, waiting for the rest of the world to take notice.
Enter Friends of Dennis Wilson with their fourth (!) full-length record – Space Maintainer. Their brand of psychedelia mirrors their gritty, tough as nails hometown. Although there are notes of shoe gaze and 80s pop in the mix, the overall impression is that of a unique and confident brand of modern psychedelic music. Some psych bands suggest paisley and incense. Friends of Dennis Wilson are gasoline, leather and amphetamines.
The record kicks off with the title track Space Maintainer, a heavy fueled burner, which counterpoints crushing guitars with a perfectly drugged out vocal melody. Instant Release follows and builds on the formula. Something good is definitely building here. It’s already become apparent that this album works better with volume. Lots more volume.
Are You There follows, and is a surprising turn to the Friends of Dennis Wilson version of shoegaze. The introduction of guest vocalist Rebecca Moran (check out her band Open Your Eyes Black Cat) adds a new layer with her clear yet sultry voice. A Star to Kiss drifts from shoegaze daze into a slow, spinning stagger down a dark and rainy alley. Excellent and subtle use of tremoloed guitar only adds to the sense that your evening has gone off the rails. The lone instrumental Terrordrone now forms the soundtrack of your night, as lights flash through the rear window of the stolen car you somehow find yourself driving.
All of this has built to one of my favorite Friends of Dennis Wilson songs – the haunting Just-in-Case-Place. Thunderous toms power this psych pop sensation into the stratosphere, and when the guitars come in …. well, this is why you bought your ticket. ‘You can do what you want/ ‘cos it’s your life’/ you can say what you want”, sings Anthony Moran, in what is really a song of redemption and empowerment.
Motion Sensor Pts. 1&2 is a well-titled song. The first half feels like a return to the music themes that started Space Maintainer. It’s here you start to pick up on one of the unique features of Friends of Dennis Wilson. Psychedelia is often said to be a visual type of sound, suggesting shapes and colors. Friends of Dennis Wilson add form and definition, creating waking dreams with their sound. When Motion Sensor hits Part 2, you are fully part of their world.
This terrific and well-paced record closes with Flight Companion. A crusher of a tune, full of drive, drone and vision, this song acts as a final crescendo which hangs in the air for what seems like years while the house lights come on and fading shadows usher you out the door.
Friends of Dennis Wilson will be playing the next installation of Psychedelic Saturday (TONIGHT July 8 at Live Wire Lounge) and will be a featured act on the first night of Kaleidoscope Eye Festival of Psychedelia (Sept 8 & 9 at Live Wire Lounge). Check out more from the band at the links below.