Anyone in psychedelic music circles these days will tell you, there’s plenty of fuzz to go around. Surf riffs drenched in shaky distortion, wobbly keyboard licks and distorted vocal yelps are becoming commonplace, and personally I love it. But as has happened with past music trends from punk to grunge to you name it, standing out from the crowd while indulging in the genre du jour isn’t always easy.
These guys the Harlequins may have a shot at it, though. On their first full LP, “One With You”, the Cincinnati three-piece has crafted a solid garage-pop trip that grabs you quick and keeps you floating.
They can surely draw comparisons with other darlings of the neo-psych movement; namely the echo-drenched bombast of Thee Oh Sees and that melodic, catchy-but-strange aspect of Ty Segall’s numerous projects. Not content to rely on the genre’s box of tricks, however, the Harlequins use the now familiar genre tropes as tools rather than crutches.
The reverb is never turned so high that it drowns out guitarist/singer Michael Oliva’s superb vocal melody lines. Bassist Alex Stenard and Rob Stamler are solid and supportive but never obtrusive, always in the service of the song. Oliva’s guitar work is breathlessly efficient and exhilarating. The solos don’t drone on and on, no noodling here. Instead, the songs are structured with a balance of garage voracity and pop sensibility. Sure, verse-chorus-verse and all that, but never wasteful or repetitive, throwing changes in where you’d expect more of the same. Think along the lines of classic garage-psych songwriters like the Davies brothers and Randy California if they’d come up in the early grunge-era and you have a starting point for The Harlequins.
Listen, though. I’m a dope when it comes to the written word. I prefer to let the tunes speak for themselves. So take a listen below (along with their insane new video) as a taste, and if you like what you hear? Head over to Dizzybird Records and pick it up today, and hit the Harlequins up on their website for news and show dates, and bug your local record store to nab a few copies.
With so many releases saturating the modern psych scene today, an exciting first album like “One With You” stands out from the herd. Keep an ear on the Harlequins.