21 Apr 2016

Surly Gates - Lay Low

Reviewed by Dedric Moore (KC Psych Fest)

Surly Gates deliver "Lay Low" as a tribute to guitar rock of the early 70's without adding in the pomp that leveled classic rock by 1975. Touches of southern rock, California rock, and a heady dose of jamming makes for a great listen as songs stretch epically. The songs feel good and Surly Gates confidently makes them sound like their own.

It's been interesting to hear the psych community move past their 60's obsession with the Summer of Love vibes and head towards the early 70's. "Lay Low" is a prime example of how to do it right. Excellent vocals, locked-in bass and drums, and production values which make the band sound like you are hearing them live coming out of the speakers.

"Pisces" kicks off with a blistering jam that teases with warm vocal harmonies and then the beats build up to a nice groove and wham, the song kicks into overdrive with the band blowing out the speakers and a wild guitar solo screeching on top.

"People" feels like a lost "Déjà Vu" song by CSNY, with meditative words and a melody which coasts along at a mellow pace as the organ bounces you along. Another guitar solo? It’s more than welcome.

"Lay Low" is one of the standout tracks with its catchy lead-in riff and syncopated bass and drums on the verse. The chorus opens up and works its way back to the groove with a great use of subtle dynamics. There is a healthy dash of Texas psych in the vocals and background guitars as a bonus.

"Proud Indian" is another song that starts out with quiet vocal harmonies before kicking into the beat. This one has some nice psych guitar that veers into space on the breaks, and the organ line is catchy as can be. "Growl" has a carnival vibe with its waltzing rhythm and is somewhat reminiscent of "White Album" era Beatles. The song builds nicely and has another great guitar solo that is on point.

"Under Your Tongue" adds in some acoustic guitars that meld nicely with the organ riff, and an ever present bass groove that keeps building in its complexity until it crescendos with the drums at the climax of the guitar solo. "Shivaratri" drops in with its fun house organ groove and has a bit of a Doors feel that then goes 70s classic rock with dual guitars singing out.

And "Wicked Lover" has that vintage bass and guitar synced riff that gets the body moving and possibly some air guitar action. It has a Black Angels feel and that isn’t a bad thing. "Wicked Lover" is catchy and has an inspired slow time breakdown.

"Catatonia" winds it down with gentle guitars, trumpet and electric piano. It even has a Byrds vibe at just the right moment.

Their songs take the time to stretch out and let the guitars flex their tone and add some great solos. Acoustic guitars, classic organ, occasional dual guitar solos, vocal harmonies, and solid songwriting make this a worthwhile listen.

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