17 Nov 2014
Album Review: Heaven’s Gateway Drugs "Apropos"
Reviewed by Timothy Ferguson (The Red Plastic Buddha)
As a practitioner and a fan of psychedelic music I am simply blown away by the reach and variety of our current psychedelic cosmos. What for most of my lifetime was a dormant seed of a musical genre, is now a vast and wondrous garden of psychotropic sonic delights. In this current golden age, one might rightly expect such historical bastions as San Francisco and Austin, Texas to be represented. But when you see a small Midwest city such as Ft. Wayne, Indiana throwing down in decided style – you know those seeds planted long ago were sown far and wide.
If you’re not aware of Heaven’s Gateway Drugs, consider yourself late to an awesome party. The band has just released their second record, "Apropos", and it’s a wonderful follow up to 2013’s "You Are Heaven’s Gateway Drugs".
On "Apropos", the band has a wonderful knack for blending both their influences and dark and light elements into a wonderful sonic trip that is at once strange and familiar. The best psychedelic music is timeless, not beholden to any stylistic rule, and Heaven’s Gateway Drugs completely understand this. The songs are at turns creepy, swinging, insanely melodic, well-crafted, innocent and perhaps even a little dangerous.
On the opening track "Read Between the Lines", Derek Mauger sounds a bit like a carnival barker welcoming us to his paisley circus. I’m a huge fan of vocal melody and I love the singsong quality of this opener. "Gone to Ground" follows up with a sinister vibe and one can’t help but be impressed with the production as the "Kashmir"-like guitar starts its ascent on the outro section. Title track "Apropos" is a great single and an excellent calling card for the group. Blending catchy with a certain subtle creepy, this level of psych pop tunefulness reminds me of what would happen if Syd Barrett took on the riff from "Ballroom Blitz". "Love/ Hate" follows with a bit of a down tempo feel that ends in a melotron swell and repeated verse. Tempo shifts again for the ever-catchy "Underwater." You’ll swear you’re at a Los Angeles party some summer night in 1968, having drinks while the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band jams in the other room. The excellent "Six Steps" is next and that singsong vocal melody is back, riding the strutting rhythm section and a strumming guitar that sounds like an alarm clock warning you of something gone wrong. ‘When I walk away, I’ll take six steps back from you’. "Secrets" is maybe my favorite song on the record, reminding me very much of Arthur Lee and Love at their most together. 12-string guitars and reverbed drums create a beautiful mood piece. "What it’s Like to Die" is the penultimate song and it bops along with a near surf party feel. The record closes strong with "Fall Back Down Again", a triumphant crescendo of psych pop perfection that forms a perfect closer for this terrific record.
Heaven’s Gateway Drugs are the kind of band that every writer likes to take on, as they are still a bit obscure. But their music is so strong, so good that one simply cannot wait to share them with their friends. I’ve done my part – now you do yours.
Ladies and gentlemen – Heaven’s Gateway Drugs. ‘It’s so apropos.’
CD, download and full stream here: