Uploaded on Nov 29, 2011
Artist -- VA
Album -- The Psychedelic Sounds of the Sonic Cathedral
Release Date -- 2010
Track - 13. Goodbye Sweet Dreams -- I Break Horses
One of the most heartening sights in recent years was Roky Erickson's appearance at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the Jarvis Cocker-curated 'Meltdown' Festival in 2007. The event represented another crucial stage in the rehabilitation of this long-time troubled artist and a timely recognition of his huge influence on psychedelic music. But if the garage rock fanatics had their way, they'd have us believe Erickson peaked with the first two 13th Floor Elevators albums and hasn't done anything of value since, an acid casualty babbling on about movie monsters and UFO's. In fact, even during the troubled years of his hospitalization and treatment for schizophrenia, Erickson continued to work with music spanning many different styles and genres ... he just didn't get the money or recognition he deserved for it. In my view, The psychedelic sounds of the Sonic Cathedral doesn't give enough attention to the 'other' side of the artist's career.
The British label's shoegazey-take on the Erickson legacy is very much 'a game of 2 halves', to coin a football analogy. The first half is stuck at the Elevators' end of the pitch, and the music is one-dimensional and rather locked in a psychedelic time warp, but then after a good half-time talking to by the manager, folkier and other aspects of his career open up, and Erickson's reputation as an artist of real gravitas eventually wins through. Grappling with the different sides of a much more rounded artist than this collection of songs would have us believe, the album is at best an uneven piece of work, which is a pity, coming on the eve of Erickson's first original release for over 10 years recorded with Okkervil River,'True love casts out evil'.
7 of the 13 songs from The Psychedelic Sounds of the Sonic Cathedral are from the 13th Floor Elevators debut The Psychedelic Sounds of ... (the trick is in the title, isn't it?). 'Tried to hide' by A Place To Bury Strangers, is probably the best of the psych-shoegaze bunch, with great sonic pyrotechnics and guitar fuzz. If you're going to do Erickson-a-la-shoegaze, do it full-on like this! 'Kingdom of heaven' by Dead Meadow also merits attention because of Jason Simon's brilliantly tender vocal, eerily similar to the man himself, who opens the album dueting with the Black Angels on 'Roller coaster'. Tim Presley's singing for Darker My Love also stirs the soul on 'She Lives in a Time of My Own', a song from the Elevators' 2nd album 'Easter Everywhere', woefully under-represented on this compilation and yet widely considered their best album. But too much of the early part of this compilation is standard fare, until Sarabeth Tucek gives the album a much needed change of pace on her sparse atmospheric Nico-esque version of 'Splash 1', a really pleasant surprise, quite true to the original but a long way from shoegaze, has to be said.
And then on come the 'supersubs' for the second half. Contributions of real substance from Sonic Boom ('You don't love me yet' by Cheval Sombre featuring Pete Kember, the song originally from Erickson's truly enchanting folk-rock album 'All that may do my rhyme') and Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine who chose the lesser known 'I love the living you' from 'Never Say Goodbye', an album of unreleased songs recorded when Erickson was still in hospital. So as we start to leave the Elevators behind, I'm finally beginning to enjoy this collection, and there are still some pleasant surprises. The charm of Black Acid's long sprawling version of 'Unforced Peace' adds long overdue interest, and then we're brought bang up to date with I Break Horses version of 'Goodbye Sweet Dreams', Erickson's first single with Okkervil River.
So Sonic Cathedral's tribute to former 13th Floor Elevators frontman does what it says on the tin, indeed it's very gratifying to see so many bands recognizing the importance of Erickson's influence and great that the royalties will be flowing his way at last. But in this compilation, it is only as the 'other' side of Erickson's career scraps for recognition that a more 'balanced' view of the artist can truly emerge. I think they could have cast the net wider still, to emphasize the artist's remarkable body of work since the Elevators. Anybody keen to investigate this might be better off investing in the 2005 double-CD anthology I Have Always Been Here Before, put together by Bill Bentley, long-time Erickson aficionado, ultimately the most comprehensive and satisfying collection assembled to date. Either that, or save your money for the real Roky Erickson warts'n'all on the truly inspiring new album True Love Casts Out Evil.