The Wheelers of Oz are also on AudioHammock Podcast #49, check it out now!
The past few years have been a whirlwind of variety within garage and psychedelic music. The recent revival began as a tribute to the groundbreaking Nuggets series, which collected the best garage-psych artists of the 60’s to create possibly the most influential compilations in music. Groups such as The Black Lips, Ty Segall and White Fence all prolifically released their own modern, California-bred takes on Nuggets, which became the main driving force of the revival. Although California became synonymous with modern garage music, Australia quietly developed an equally impressive collection of artists. The strength of Australian music was on full display in 2015 with excellent albums from King Gizzard, Tame Impala, Pond, and Pipe-Eye, as well as an album of the year contender from newcomer Courtney Barnett. While each of these releases are strong and enjoyable listens, the most impressive Australian album this year (in my opinion), is from Perth-based The Wheelers of Oz entitled Revivalised.
Revivalised is an incredibly tight and confident debut, which similar to Wand’s stellar 2015 album 1000 Days, is able to effortlessly float between its influences. Much of the album’s aesthetic is rooted in the popular Burger Records surf, punk and psychedelic sound; however the Wheelers of Oz are able to breathe fresh air into the genre. The group is able to provide an update on the classic sound by adding additional musical elements, predominately shoegaze and dream pop. The influence of dream-pop is immediately present on album opener “Mise En Scene” which acts as an excellent introduction to the album. Additionally, the introduction works in almost perfect harmony with closer “Revivalised”, which carries a similar aesthetic while adding a strong surf influence.
The cinematic and spacey aesthetic of these two tracks is present on nearly all of the album’s tracks, which creates one of the most enjoyable listens in modern psych. In fact, as cliché as it may sound, Revivalised sounds as though it could have been recorded during the Summer of Love. For example, the droning vocals and middle eastern-influenced sound of “Why Won’t You Love Me?” is reminiscent of The Beatles’ explorations with psychedelia. Further, standout track “La Petite Mort” carries a hazy tone that would not sound out of place on DIIV’s excellent debut Oshin and occasionally borders on shoegaze. Finally, the album’s best track “Kidinabin” begins with a similar hazy, garage sound before ultimately settling into a trance-inducing groove. It is impossible to talk about this kind of tribal-infused psychedelia without mentioning Sweden’s GOAT, as they have essentially perfected the sound, but the extended instrumental within “Kidinabin” is able to combine GOAT’s mind-melting jams with a more sun-drenched, almost surf vibe to create an extremely enjoyable sound.
While the album is full of hazy, sun-drenched and far-out tracks, there is also a healthy diet of garage rock throughout, oftentimes mixed perfectly with the albums more dreamy elements. The group showcases this ability best on “Here with Me”, which combines a Nuggets-infused garage rock tune with an almost dizzying level of haze, to create one of the more immediately likeable songs of the year. Shoegaze and garage are both genres with a strong connection to psychedelic, thus, it is no surprise the two are able to work in perfect harmony throughout the album. The only track on the album without a distinctly hazy feeling is “Girl!”, which largely replaces the haze with a more conventional song structure to create an immediately infectious and memorable song. Although “Girl!” is not as sonically exciting as the rest of the album, the song’s to the point song writing allows it to be just as successful. In fact, the quick songwriting is reminiscent of early Ty Segall, which was also heavily based in economic garage rock.
2015 has possibly been the strongest year of music in recent memory, as the current wave of garage-psych artists has continued to release wonderful albums at prolific rates. Further, while California has traditionally been the stronghold for modern psych music, fans are beginning to take notice of the incredible scenes which have developed in Australia, specifically Melbourne and Perth. Although Australian psych has seen an embarrassment of riches in 2015, none are able to match the hazy, sun-drenched garage of The Wheelers of Oz debut Revivalised. The Wheelers of Oz expect to release new music early next year, which combined with the incredible confidence and success of Revivalised, make them an incredibly important band to watch in the rapidly expanding garage-psych scene.