BEGGARS ARKIVE 8th June 2018
I came to Thee Hypnotics backwards. First off, a discovery of the batshit crazy electric rock and roll of The Jim Jones Experience then a trail leading backwards to this nigh-forgotten band of the early nineties. Jim was the front man but the other lynchpin was the crazy guitar of Ray Hanson. The combined vision was one of primal rock of the MC5 / Stooges ilk, a Detroit sonic soup.
Jim, Ray and the others did it right. Not just the sound, but the attitude and the life. There were drugs everywhere, lives were lived unhealthily, death showed its face, their first US tour was ended by a serious crash and most things that could go wrong, did. To cap it all, their big break went sour and crashed and burned.
The big news is that their unreleased third album is here, The Very Crystal Speed Machine. The other two albums are here too, remastered but this, the third, never saw light; not because of quality, but because of legal issues. And it’s good, very good. With the hard work paying off, they were spotted by Chris Robinson from The Black Crowes and signed to American Recordings, then riding high. When legal issues hit between American Recordings and their European distributor, the album was a victim. Then the band’s tour bus gave up and they toured little US venues in a clapped-out yellow school bus. It didn’t take long for the band to call it a day. The set rolls in an American classic 70s rock sound, mixed with the messy rock and roll and is a whole lot more carefully assembled than the occasional deliberately shambled bit would suggest. Chris worked them hard in the studio, playing alongside and insisting they got the album just right, banning band members according to attitude or drug use. The result is a band teetering on the big time as well as wobbling on the edge of dissipation.
The other two albums (which were new to me) are great, too. Fusing a rock and roll energy with swamp rock and a psychedelic sensibility (or at least the eighties version). Allied to Jim Jones’ hoarse pipes and frenetic piano energy, the sum total is some of the best genre fusion of the decade and bursts with hip-thrusting rock and roll frenzy. There is a raw vibe here and, on the second album, a rising Spiritualised/ Primal Scream sheet of sound tension.
Ray and Jim had started with a ticklist of what their dream band would be and made their band into a teenager’s dream (a very cool teenager heavily influenced by the albums of older friends). They’d lived the dream of Baudelaire’s systematic derangement of the senses and nearly, very nearly, made the halls of legend. Their failure is part of their achievement, since they’d always known that the road of excess leads to destruction as well as William Blake’s palace of wisdom.
Let’s end prosaically by saying that all three albums here, released on heavyweight vinyl, are thoroughly excellent. The session tracks on the fourth disc are good, too, thanks to their relative nakedness. Having just reformed for a tour, who knows where Thee Hypnotics’ story will take them now. For now, if you haven’t heard these three albums, you really owe it to yourself to do so.