One of the things that music can often do is take us on a journey. Veteran musicians doing it for the love of their art are often especially deft at this. Kingdom of Suicide Lovers are a band that come from this mold. Veterans of the psychedelic rock scene in Austin, TX they present their particular brand of the style in an accessible and cinematic way that beckons to listeners to come inside their tent. On their latest, Kosmos, we are dropped into the movie in their head.
So picture, if you will, a dusty road in West Texas stretching on for what seems like infinity. See an approaching dust storm on the horizon. Feel the air get sucked out from all around you. Now hear a wall of feedback that implodes into a very Stooges psychedelic riff and we’re off and running with “Young, Destroyed”, the opening track on the band’s latest effort. They have set the stage here in the way that only highly efficient, well-practiced musicians can. When those elements present themselves it’s hard not to sink into the sound.
Though the band is from Texas their overall feel is that of one from some of the bigger scenes from years ago. One of those scenes is D.C. particularly harkening back to the heyday of Dischord Records in the early-90s. That influence is most evident on tracks like “Phoenix Sunrise” and “Ambush”. These tracks features bassist Kelsey Wickliffe’s breathey (and sometimes breathtaking) vocals while guitarist and vocalist, Nathan Streckfus does his best Guy Picccioto in riff and voice. It’s actually an interesting nod to Fugazi and other Dischord bands such as Lungfish, Nation of Ulysses, and Jawbox. “Fence” is another track in this vein that actually winds up bridging the gap between Nation of Ulysses and Rainer Maria particularly with the well-worked and intertwined vocals of Wickliffe and Streckfus.
Beyond the obvious nods to this particular scene one of the things that help set the band apart is the guitar work that plays in a lot of different directions, propulsive, ever forward, and often “danceable”. Tracks “Flaming Arrows” and “Time Bomb” do this very well in ways more reminiscent of classic X and eschew some of the angularity of other tracks on the album. Clearly the band aren’t afraid of shifting gears from time to time. The inclusion of “Nuclear Future” reinforces this by giving us something of an updated oddity feature somewhere between Suicide and Lou Reed.
“Maximum Volume” is another track in that LA first wave punk style with a dash of Austin’s own Big Boys thrown in. The spaciness of the track at points is also reminiscent of vintage 13th Floor Elevators. While the band aren’t breaking any particularly new ground what they do, they do very well and that has to be appreciated from experienced hands.
The band list Wire, Blonde Redhead, and Gang of Four as influences, and those references are abundant as a backing theme for their sound but one of the cool things about this album is that each presents a different facet or core reference point. And when that dust storm clears, there in the middle of that road sits a neat package of very listenable new wave punk meets modern psychedelic rock.
. . .
Kosmos is out now and can be picked up via the band’s Bandcamp.