I know this makes me a philistine, but I prefer my psychedelia watered down, the way this Bay Area band plays it. Nothing against all those crazy long-haired Japanese freeks and their howling mystical vortices of interstellar guitar noise, but I’ve got my nerves to consider–I’m glad the Gris Gris has jumped out of that spaceship and into a hay wagon full of melancholy, tender pop. With its Vaseline-coated sound, the band’s self-titled debut, released last month on Birdman, isn’t vivid or harrowing enough to come off like a bad acid trip–rather it’s like the spooky, whimsical dream a little kid might have if he fell asleep listening to his big brother blaring some uncut old-school psych through the bedroom wall. The atmospherics get help from homemade percussion instruments, including a couple that sound like a musical saw and a set of castanets, and here and there you’ll hear a guest musician on sax or “feedback microphone.” Aside from a handful of instrumentals, the songs seem written to serve the bleak, playful yarns that front man Greg Ashley spins with his wobbly voice: my favorites are “Mary #38,” about a country girl who moves to the city and winds up living in a box, and “Winter Weather,” about a beautiful young thing whose moods never turn warm. With Magnus and Plastic Crimewave Sound; the Civilized Age headlines. Saturday 18, 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $7.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lisa Youn.