There’s a dusty, ‘road trip to nowhere good’ vibe to Holy Wave. They make the kind of grainy, 8mm-type of garage rock that feels like one of those gloomy yard sale finds. Searching through a damp cardboard box of LPs marked “.50 or best offer” you find various copies of Herb Albert & The Tiujana Brass’ Whipped Cream, some Bob Seger, Steve Miller, and a half-rotted album sleeve of Beatles White Album. But then you come across a copy of Holy Wave’s Evil Hits. You take it home and put it on and get that eerie feeling. That feeling that you know you like it, you’re not sure why, and you wonder what alternate reality late 60s or early 70s that it came from. Then you see it came out in 2013 and your mind is blown.
These Texas psych rockers make well-aged, grimy rock and roll. It’s the kind of stuff you’d imagine Captain Spaulding, Otis and Baby would be listening to in a beat up convertible as they’re terrifying West Texas with tasteless quips and ample weapons. There’s lots of touchstones of other bands here like The Black Lips, The Black Angels, and early Deerhunter; as well as classic Stones, 13th Floor Elevators, and at times Piper-era Floyd. While echoing those other bands, Holy Wave have made their own brand of neo-psychedelic desert rock that with each progressive album has gone less explosive rock and roll to an almost AM, jazz-inflected vibe(albeit with a mescaline aftertaste.) Evil Hits gathered their first two EPs, while Relax had more of a groove to it. They let their rhythm section do most of the steering while widening their sonic palate with keys, Leslie speakers, and a Magical Mystery Tour vibe. They weren’t just another desert psych rock band on a desert death road trip.
Holy Wave have returned with their 3rd LP, the aptly titled Adult Fear. It continues the dreamy, mildly hallucinogenic vibe from their last two albums. This time, however, things remain cautiously quiet and serene. Guitar freakouts have been replaced with eerie organs and Mac Demarco queasiness. They’ve gone from a yard sale vinyl find to a well worn cassette found on the side of the road.
Adult Fear sports a very psych pop feel. There’s a real Captured Tracks thing happening on this album. That whole queasy crew of bedroom psych poppers like Beach Fossils, Demarco, Alex Calder, and Chris Cohen all haunt this record. Holy Wave still keep things wide open with plenty of desert landscape, but a track like “Nation In Regress” floats along on jazzy rhythms and faintly echoed vocals that weren’t nearly as prominent before. “How Was I Supposed To Know” rides along on a melancholy groove. A cross between 50s rock and roll and a heavy dose of late 60s Floyd. “Habibi” is 8 minutes of a driving motorik beat and clean guitar lines. It has a very early Real Estate sound to it. The song slows down a bit into some hallucinatory moments with the vocals and drums bringing things to a more contemplative mood.
The mood stays pretty constant throughout Adult Fear. No major shifts in vibes or emotion. “Dixie Cups” proves interesting as sort of a standout, slow motion pop track. “David’s Flower” plays with some Chris Cohen vibes and adds some nice keys. “The Nurse’s Tale” has an 80s vibe, mixing The Motels and touches of early Echo and the Bunnymen.
Adult Fear continues to move Holy Wave in new directions. While not pushing any real boundaries, these Texas psych rockers are proving they’re far more than what their chosen genre allows.