By Eric McKeefer
Local Music Journalist
I first caught the power of Pearl Earl live during SXSW 2018 and was quite impressed. Surprised by their positive dancing energy and the fullness of their live sound, I was lucky enough to see this four-piece out of Denton again Wednesday Aug. 8 at Hotel Vegas in Austin on a stacked bill of local talent including The Sun Mashine, The Rotten Mangos and Peyote Coyote.
After listening to Pearl Earl’s self titled album, released summer of 2017, I can only recommend a thorough listen through to find your favorites tracks. Individually, the songs from Pearl Earl’s debut album are solid, fun and enjoyable in any garage psych playlist. Delivering all the good delay, reverb, and phaser effects that underground psych has come to love, tracks like “Star In The Sky” add a magically spooky and mysterious feeling, kin to that of White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane. Seriously, the two-minute intro feels like Alice’s dreamy fall down the rabbit hole before it lands into chaos that is fitting for Mickey’s trials as a an sorcerer’s apprentice in Fantasia.
The first track “Meet Your Maker” features balanced dynamics between the beat focused vererse and the harmonic heavy chorus that reveals the band’s total vocal talents. Pearl Earl is a crowd pleaser both live and in the studio laying down solid, heady psych rock with tight riff-spotlight mixed in, as heard in “Eyes Shut”. Lyrically, this song reminds me of the teachings of Don Juan form a “A Separate Reality” by Carlos Castaneda. “What Do You Know” hits harder rock vibes that could be sister to Austin’s own psych rock heros The Black Angels. The final song “I Know” offers a nice beat change with a bossa nova feel over the verse that, hopefully, hints at more diverse music in future releases.
Pieces of this album highlight Pearl Earl’s creativity and energy. However, at times I felt myself wanting more sonic variety. There is a necessary space and depth missing when the bass follows the vocals or the guitar melodies, as in “Cosmic Queen” and “Wizard Man.” This technique adds a lot of power but, becomes exhausting when used too often. The eighth song,“Take a shot,” is both lyrically uninteresting and sounds like a re-run of vocal effects and guitar leads. A friend of mine said after listing through a few tracks that “it’s not enough hype and not enough chill at same time.” While I don’t agree with this statement completely, I do feel like I’m trapped in a land of uncertainty with only the gap between songs to relieve me before the psych-rock riff takes hold again. Simply, their live performance does not justly translate to the record when listened to at full length. Regardless, I recommend keeping up with this band and I am excited to see how they grow in future albums.
Featured image by Eric McKeefer.