By Shane Willenborg
Local Music Journalist
Artist: The Hermits
Album: The Hermits
Release Date: Feb. 28, 2019
Austin was the birthplace of psych rock in the 1960s with the thirteenth floor elevators. The genre quickly moved out of the West coast, but bands like The Hermits keep it alive in Austin to this day. The band’s first full-length and self-titled album came out in late February, and evokes the likes of Roky Erickson, The Smashing Pumpkins and even Stephen Malkmus.
Right from the start, this album nails that early garage rock sound with “Teeth of the Mountain” and “Chemicals Gon’ Bad.” These songs have a grit and a lazy disposition that empowers the shoegaze rocker in all of us. The album then transitions into the single, “Ruby Red Summer,” which reminds me of a Smashing Pumpkins tune with its wall of sound guitar riffs and up-beat tempo. “Ruby Red Summer” serves as a great centerpiece to what this band is all about, it exemplifies the band’s laid back attitude while also showcasing some of the more punk and psych roots that influence its members.
“Dogs eat Grass” and “Highway” tone it back on the grungy soundscapes and favor a more swirly retro-pop sound that reminds me of summer. “Highway” really stands out to me, and the song recreates the feeling of being on a road trip. You can almost see the striped lane lines blurring past as the reverb heavy guitar fills in the song during and after the chorus.
“She Arrived” begins with a bit of dialogue between an adult and a kid in a tree, capturing the relatable attitude of the album. This transitions beautifully into the music, which is sung from the perspective of the kid in the tree. This song shows the wealth of dynamics and timbre the band is capable of, with a mixture of elements taken from the rest of the album.
The listener is immediately thrown into a tailspin with the next song, “No Replacement,” as a distinct lead guitar plays over a driving progression of heavy power chords. Once again The Hermits do a great job translating their influences into an original idea on this track, with hints of The Smashing Pumpkins rising to the surface.
The next two songs, “Candy Eyes” and “Lazy,” take a slightly different direction than the rest of the album. Providing a cleaner, more vintage sound that reminds me lot of Stephen Malkmus, The Hermits ease the listener into the final act of this album. I think “Lazy” is another song on this album that deserves to be highlighted and works as a great transition into the album’s final track.
“Maximum Ernst” is a subtle ending to this album; the song is made up of several modular parts that all seem to slowly fall away as the song progresses. Just when it feels like the song is about to collapse, we get a few more erratic bursts of distorted guitar and drums, followed by the song settling back into the main groove again.
This is a nice way to end an album made up of a melting pot of different influences. It’s no secret that The Hermits wear their influences on their sleeves, but I can’t fault them for that because they honestly do a great job weaving those influences into clever and original music. I recommend this album to any classic psych rock fans out there and I look forward to what The Hermits will do in the future.