The ever-expanding trip

Most bands who dally in the psychedelic rock sound these days pick up on a couple of touchstones and then do their own thing. I like that approach; it allows bands to find their own corner of a (very) well-worn sound.

The Asteroid No. 4
The Asteroid No. 4
(Bad Vibrations)

The Asteroid No. 4 has gone the other way, mining the various edges of the psychedelic galaxy until it has pretty much subsumed the genre. Over its eight albums, the Asteroid No. 4 has been loud, fuzzy, trippy, vaguely country-ish, almost mindbendingly introspective and soul-crushingly expansive. In other words, the band sacrificed its own sound for the glories of the genre.

Which might be one reason that past a devoted (and small) core of true believers, not many folks have come to know the pleasures of this band's music. This album hasn't changed that trend, but I think that it's fair to say this is the most compete musical statement the band has ever made.

More shimmer than bash this time around, these songs ruminate and explore. Much of the time, the whole psychedelia thing is pushed into the background. The focus is on the songs and what they say (lyrically and musically) and not the sound that dresses them. A setback for the genre, I suppose, but a definite step forward for the band.

Will the Asteroid No. 4 make this sound "its sound"? I sincerely doubt it. This is a band that has been restlessly adventurous for more than 15 years. So this time out it recorded an album that largely rests on the Gram Parsons side of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Who's to say next time won't be more Love (or Love and Rockets)? That uncertainty is one of the reasons it is always a treat to hear something new from these boys.

Jon Worley

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