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West Indian Girl
West Indian Girl

Astralwerks
2004
D+



sychedelia, ultimately, rests in the ear of the beholder. One man's repetitive and hypnotic is another man's repetitive and boring. One man's unpredictable and exploratory is another man's messy and aimless. There is no single formula to create a sound that sounds way cool to absolutely everyone while on drugs. Which, let's face it, is the whole point of "psychedelic" music in the first place.

West Indian Girl, which consists primarily of two guys from LA, seem to think they're pretty damn trippy, buddy. From their official bio: "West Indian Girl" was the name of a particular strain of Owsley's acid synthesised in the early 1960s; the band met in the heyday of Dallas' ecstasy scene in the 80s; smoking pot while making the album "opened up [the songs]—that's how the album was realized." Maaaan.

I can't recall any recent act so eager to publicly associate themselves with all manner of hallucinogenic drugs. And yet they just don't sound all that druggy to me. Granted, I wasn't under the influence while listening to it, unless you count red wine, so maybe I'm missing out on something. I've put more than my share of time listening to psychedelic musics of all strains, and I know it when I hear it. This is, instead, slickly produced pop with a few spacey details, clearly the product of a band that's spent far more energy building their own studio than playing live.

Not that the music is entirely devoid of psych characteristics. The arrangements have a pleasantly open-ended quality, the lyrics a vague mind-expanding theme. Every track is sprinkled with splashes of guitar or synth here and there, making for a decent headphone effect. It sounds as though they laid down the basic tracks for each song as their canvas, then got wasted, went back and doodled all over them with whatever filter or effect pedal tickled their fancy at the time.

But these details are simply window dressing. The primary tools here are the dramatic, over-enunciated vocals and the clean, chiming guitars. At heart West Indian Girl's music has far more in common with the anthemic British stadium rock of James or Simple Minds than with any of rock's more lysergic sub-genres. And if judged on those terms the band comes up short, devoid of memorably rousing choruses that could make those acts' bigger hits so inspiring.

West Indian Girl have the potential to develop into a decent band in a few different directions, most likely as obsessive studio hermits. But they apparently plan to tour with a full band to support this album; perhaps the experience of playing live will push them towards group improvisation. Either way, the identity they've tried to forge for themselves on their debut doesn't work. Next incarnation, perhaps.



Reviewed by: Bjorn Randolph

Reviewed on: 2004-09-01

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