The Social Registry
he smirking paradox of almost all derivative music is that in a certain sense, the more you reference something, the easier it is to stand out or deviate from it. So when reaching for influences for Dins, the debut record from Brooklyn’s drone-rock up-and-comers Psychic Ills, it’s hard to reconcile the distinct stamp of Spacemen 3’s skuzzy ether or even My Bloody Valentine with Sonic Youth’s cavern of heavy petting and narcotics circa Evol; the former sounds are skyscrapers, the latter is a sewer, but both have a kind of stoned romanticism to them. Psychic Ills fall between, which makes a whole lot of sense: they’re a street-level band for street-level styles. Psychosexual Sonic Youth all of the sudden seems too murky and Spacemen 3 too religious to actually stalk the urban nocturne tints of Dins.
Dins’s biggest achievement, or at least most commendable one, is to remember that in the early 80s, the two drummers in The Fall had devolved into cavemen and the rest used to gobble mushrooms at the local pub. I’m sorry. What I meant was that The Fall seemed to like how Can was a weird band that also put some ass in the trunk (even if it was an effectively flat ass); freaks need to shake something other than their maracas. Pyschic Ills are the youngest brother in that set—druggy guitar music with a distinct groove, even if they're not quite the juggernaut that The Fall was or quite as adept as Can. “January Rain,” for all its implied shape, somnambulistic wisps of vocal, or shimmering neon-in-fog guitar, is absolutely owned by the rhythm section, which seems either numb or ambivalent about how funky it is. And it is when Dins is at its most groovy that it best satisfies, as simple subtraction reveals; tracks like the rumbling “Another Day, Another Night” sound like a beefy Galaxie 500, a B-list shoegaze relic. It should still be said that their exultant shredding and too-faded-to-stand posturing seems integral, and again, their best trick is when they’re able to temper it by tempting a dancefloor at the same time. And sure, Mark E. Smith from the Fall wore sweaters, but he also got wasted and gnashed his teeth; Spacemen 3 just, you know, wore sweaters because they were ultimately polite white art-school boys. Also, three of the four members of Psychic Ills have hair way past their shoulders; even though one of them is a girl, the last guy should count for half because his hair is exceptionally frizzy and goes up-and-out rather than straight down.
Revelatory quaff-and-wardrobe chatter aside, while Psychic Ills pull off some wonderful moments on Dins, there are plenty of dull stretches too. Occasionally, they stray out of their league, aping the protracted gestures of borough buddies Double Leopards (or any number of prolific CD-R heroes), stirring that magick cauldron of hum and noise before a song congeals, a real primordial ooze vibe. It’s a tight vest—chemistry students messing around in the biology lab—and it seems like they’re following some odd notion that their actual songs are so full of dizzying rock power that we need 4 minutes of cymbal ringing and lightly echoing feedback to fully come down from them. Which we, uhh, really don’t. So those moments are more or less lost. Thoughtful trimming leaves Dins with a litter of minor glories, but an understanding that few kids in the retro-rock playpen have nowadays (and something that bodes well for the band’s future): you don’t have to be your parents to make them happy.