Release Date: Sep 18, 2012
Record label: Drag City
Since they started in the early 2000s, Sic Alps' music has made its way into the world via a host of formats (7", cassette, LP) and labels (Siltbreeze, Slumberland, and Woodsist), but however it arrived, you could always count on one thing: It would be damaged. Songwriter Mike Donovan and drummer Matt Hartman sought an improbable union of pop sweetness and sonic hate, blasting Kinks riffs through Pussy Galore's shredded speaker cabinets. But if you're the type who comes to Sic Alps looking to get your hair blown back, the opening notes of the group's self-titled fourth album (fifth, if you count the compilation A Long Way Round to a Shortcut) will be a bit discombobulating.
These days, the contemporary yet retro garage sound -- exemplified by Atlanta miscreants The Black Lips, and carried further by Thee Oh Sees, Bass Drum of Death and Night Beats -- has much to owe to the arguable forefathers of melodic white noise, The Velvet Underground. With the undercurrent of noise a backdrop, contemporary acts, including the Bay Area’s Sic Alps, have a lot of room to maneuver with off-kilter violins and distortion abound. Add to that the enraged, impulsive motivation behind Raw Power, and you have yourself a rock-solid noise album.
Garage-rock standouts Sic Alps ooze ’60s revival on this, their fifth full-length album. Messy yet polished guitars surge through swathes of melodic white noise while the tracks are still able to maintain an impressive sharpness. Swelling violins and breathy vocals make us think Sic Alps may be the not-so-distant relatives of The Velvet Underground—specifically, the younger cousins who earned their calluses by memorizing Raw Power chords in the garage, a Ray Davies poster visible behind them, dozens of crushed Anchor Steams underfoot.
There’s a method to Sic Alps now, where the haphazard, west-coast garage sound seems anything but accidental. The four guys aren’t dissembling as lo-fi psych rockers — but thanks to a steady and prolific output of records of all types of inches and lengths, at this point in their career they sound like they’re playing at the DIY aesthetic as opposed to being fully immersed in it. They wear a wry grin like the ones Pavement made so famous.
From the people who brought you those bright copper pennies from heaven “Message From The Law,” “Mater,” “Massive Place,” “Hey! Sofia,” and many more comes Sic Alps’ new self-titled album: a fuzzy, blowsy blast of hop-skip-to-jumpin’ boogies bound to get you goosed and gandered onto the street, into the night, and flatly flopped down on the mattress in merry exhaustion. While it may be their first foray into a proper studio (listen to that high pop sheen on album highlight “Moviehead”), they haven’t lost the pisscat shuffleup spit-takes that make them so Sic. Why, the very demanding (and *gulp* effective, since I just did) “Drink Up!” rings out as sketched ‘n’ bleary as primo pressrecordn’go Alps ever trilled.
On their self-titled fourth album, Sic Alps get their act together more than one ever would have expected based on their earliest recordings. Not only is Sic Alps the band's some of the band's most cleanly recorded music, it also boasts some of their tightest songwriting yet, borrowing different strains of psychedelia from Liverpool, Austin, and their hometown of San Francisco. "Glyphs" opens the album with an homage to Beatles-style psych-pop that manages to be very "I Am the Walrus" while still rough enough around the edges to be entirely Sic Alps (plus, it's good to hear someone attempt this acerbic kind of psychedelia, which seems to have been overshadowed by full-on acid freakouts and wispy castles in the sky by the legions of psych revivalists).
SIC ALPS play Monday (October 22) at Double Double Land. See listing. Rating: NNN Typically, when a band self-titles an album that's not its debut, it signals a fresh start or reintroduction. This fifth album from Bay Area rockers Sic Alps has that feel to it. With eyes on the potent San Francisco ….
When Sic Alps scored their first ripple of UK interest a few years back, it boxed them into a non-genre called ‘shitgaze’, which unsurprisingly was never going to be a lasting proposition for anybody. Equally, it seems the San Franciscans had ambitions beyond the tag’s distortion-over-finesse style. This fifth album is a relatively sedate affair, which touches on Pavement-style indie spikiness (‘Wake Up, It’s Over II’), Dylan-esque troubadour strum (‘Polka Vat’) and emotionally raw loner-folk (‘Thylacine Man’).
Despite this being their fifth LP, there is a good argument that Sic Alps aren't really an albums band. Since their last record, the superb Napa Asylum, released only last year, they have put out a slew of 7” (including the eccentric and exotic 'Vedley') as well as live recordings available on the band's website. Despite this impressive fertility, a full Sic Alps album still seems like an event: that this unkempt foursome have deemed these 10 songs as representing a certain coherent statement is reason to pay serious attention.
San Francisco’s Sic Alps’ fifth album is a unashamed paean to the golden era of Bay Area psychedelia and sixties garage rock. The band’s previous effort, 2011’s ‘Napa Asylum’, was a sprawling 22-track double album; this eponymous follow-up trims and distills the excess into ten tracks of fuzzy, often anarchic-sounding melodious noise. The addition to the ranks of Joanna Newsom collaborator Ryan Francesconi on string arrangements lends a marginally more baroque finish to the cacophony but it’s still a predominantly messy affair.At their best, Sic Alps resemble a relatively sane Syd Barrett fronting Guided By Voices.