£17.99 – LP & DL Code
The heavies of glam and garage rock past loom large over Golem, the second full-length from Los Angeles-based psych-rock quartet Wand. It’s not a nostalgia-driven record, but you can definitely catch a whiff of David Bowie, T. Rex, and eyeliner-era Brian Eno wafting through the band’s heavy riffs and stoned melodies.
However, Wand’s most obvious touchstone is a little more contemporary: Ty Segall. Over the last couple of years, Segall and his close-knit crew—bands like Thee Oh Sees and White Fence— have established a headier and heavier take on dinosaur rock by amping up the tempo and coating familiar-sounding riffs in a layer of lo-fi psychedelic grime. From the double-tracked falsetto vocals to the alien guitar tones, their influence is clear and present on Golem. Wand aren’t sound-alikes, but they also aren’t shy about appropriating moves from the other bands in their scene.
And they’re pretty good at those moves. Evidently there are no hard feelings: Wand has opened for Ty Segall and the band’s singer/guitarist Cory Hanson has also accompanied Segall comrade Mikal Cronin on the road. Wand’s debut album, Ganglion Reef, was released on Segall’s Drag City imprint, GOD? It’s a bit like the Beatles releasing Badfinger on Apple—an act that took heavy inspiration from their more well-known mentor/producers, but also delivered independently memorable material on their own in a similar style.
There are some notable differences, though. Where their peers might ground stoney riffs in personal and real-life inspired subject matter, Wand’s tunes tend to dwell in the wizard candle-lit realms of the fantastic. Some of Hanson’s lyrics (“The forest is soft and the spiders are dead”) sound like they might have first been uttered in the midst of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. And who knows, maybe they were; the members of Wand have been known to play the game.
Fantastic imagery aside, D&D is not a bad platform for understanding Wand. The game makes use of established ground rules, but the tone and setting can be embellished to suit the tastes and interests of the players. Wand’s foundation lies in the old-school prog/psych sourcebook, but the songs often wander away from the script in a way that is refreshing. Glimpses of pop nostalgia are regularly smeared over with anachronistic synthesizer squiggles or blotted out with heavy rock riffs reminiscent of the Melvins. These are the record’s best moments—when a Marc Bolan vocal seamlessly blends into the kind of tape-collage weirdness that might have been at home on a Butthole Surfers LP. Still, listening to Golem—which arrives via Los Angeles garage and weirdo-rock standby In the Red—it’s hard to shake the been-there-done-that feeling. Wand excels at delivering heavy and murky sounds, but they’re a bit late to a conversation that their peers have already dominated.