Gloom merchants

The Warlocks’ psych is far from psyched
By BARRY THOMPSON  |  August 5, 2009

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It would’ve been nice if Bobby Hecksher, songsmith and ringleader of the Warlocks, had spoon-fed me some anecdotes from back when he used to trip out with Timothy Leary. The kids love reading about that type of shit. Yet at this point in his career — as the lush ethereality of the Los Angeles doom-psych ensemble’s latest, The Mirror Explodes (Tee Pee), illustrates — he feels little compulsion to repeat himself. Or mollycoddle reporters.

“I hope I’m not coming across as a jerk, but at a certain point, when you’re asked the same question 50 or 100 times, it gets to be a bit much,” he says when yet another reporter inquires about Leary as the Warlocks find themselves mid tour in the United Kingdom. (They come to Great Scott this Wednesday.)

Sounds like a not-so-subtle cue to avoid asking, “So, what are Anton Newcombe and Beck like in real life?” Hecksher aided Beck in some pre-“Loser,” pre-Scientology labors. Newcombe is alleged to have been a former Warlocks drummer, and Hecksher is among the legion of Newcombe’s former Brian Jonestown Massacre-ites. But never mind bygone associations with more famous, less talented musicians, or a departed psychotropic guru. No sense discussing Leary’s ghost when Warlocks songs are more pertinent, and every bit as scary as any freaky dead thing.

The Warlocks have grown increasingly foreboding since they began, back in 1999. I’m not the only one who feels that their earlier material — retro-pop with all the depth of a kiddie pool — isn’t very good. Then again, Pitchfork is unfathomably harsh on psych-rock bands from the West coast. (And referring to the Velvet Underground’s influence on any member of that crowd is only a little more insightful than noting the profound influence food has had on sandwiches.)

Both Heavy Deavy Skull Lover, their 2007 album, and The Mirror Explodes are lacking in chuckles and sunshine. Just like the kids at Spahn Ranch, the Warlocks began as a celebration of decadence, with easygoing guitar riffs, and Hecksher aping Bob Dylan’s vocals, only to arrive in the sonic realm of The Mirror Explodes, with its blank gaze into the introspective abyss of a really gnarly amphetamine comedown. Crawling, hazy riffs and Hecksher’s cheerless moaning capture a dueling obsession with and aloofness toward the aforementioned abyss. “It’s a much dreamier record,” says Hecksher of The Mirror. “The thing about the albums so far is, it feels like a completion of a period for me. We finished what I wanted to work on in the last 10 years of songwriting. The Mirror Explodes is pieces of stuff I never got around to, or didn’t come out right, so I was really stubborn like that. I have to finish ideas. I feel like I can’t move on or something. So I really enjoy The Mirror Explodes, because now I can try something else.”

For a crafter of such nebulous music, Hecksher is remarkably benign about refusing to answer questions, and he avoids potential bummers, like reading shitty reviews of his records in haughty on-line publications, or even more favorable articles like this one. He will also make his DJ debut following the Great Scott show — so come for the apocalypse, and stay for the dance party.

THE WARLOCKS + THE MORNING AFTER GIRLS + THE VANDELLES + DJ CARBO | Great Scott, 1222 Comm Ave, Allston | August 12 | $12 | 617.566.9014 or 

Related: Photos: Ringo Deathstarr, Young Adults and The Vandelles at Great Scott, Cool noise, Musings and mutterings from the worlds of Maine music, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, Church of Scientology,  More more >
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