Bubbling up from the psychedelic tar pits of L.A., Frankie and the Witch Fingers have been a constant source of primordial groove for the better part of the last decade. Formed and incubated in Bloomington before moving west to scrap with Los Angeles’ garage rock rabble, the band evolved from cavern-clawed echo merchants to architects of prog-infected psych epics that evoke a shift in reality. After a stretch on Chicago/LA flagship Permanent Records the band landed at yet another fabled enclave of garage and psychedelia – Brooklyn’s Greenway Records, now working in tandem with psych power house LEVITATION and their label The Reverberation Appreciation Society, the groups latest effort is dually supported by a RAS / Greenway co-release.
After years of searching for the specific alchemy that would tear open the cosmos, they found the formula with the addition of Shaughnessy Starr on drums in the summer of 2018. They began a new cycle and tripped into tip-on double gatefold territory, flesh-ing out their lysergic impulses into a monolith of sound that closes in from all sides. The band reached new levels of grandiosity and utilized every minute to manifest their psych-soul Sabbath in four dimensions, spilling psychic blood on a populace ready and eagerly waiting. Yet, as expansive, inventive, and immersive as any studio album might be, the band is born for the stage. As their live prowess caught the ears of some legends in their own right, the band practically lived on the road last year with stints opening for Oh Sees, Cheap Trick and ZZ Top. Along the way the constant pulpit of the stage would form ZAM into a transformative experience while plotting their next permutation of space and time.
That transformation, Monsters Eating People Eating Monsters… (repeated infinitely,) rises like a phoenix from the road tar, van exhaust, and ozone crackle of amps in heat. Once off the road it was recorded in just five blistering days. Though, while the tour may have hammered the album into shape and brought about a wind of change, those changes stretched to the band itself as well. In the wake of the tour the band’s long-time bassist Alex Bulli made his exit, with the majority of bass parts on the album being written and played by multi-instrumental magician Josh Menashe with occasional pitch in from songwriter Dylan Sizemore. Stripped to their core the band has created their most ambitious work to date, an album that takes the turbulence of ZAM and crafts it into a beast more insidious and singular than anything in their catalogue. Moving forward, the band has taken on new blood. Completing their line-up, Nikki Pickle (of Death Valley Girls) will join them working the new album out roadside on bass. A new horizon of Frankie and the Witch Fingers draws near and we’re all set to follow them into the unknown.
Opening with ‘Activate’, an eight-minute track that perfectly encapsulates what this band are all about; relentless energy, carefully constructed sequences and a vocal style so unique its instantly recognisable – if you want to understand this band, this track will serve you well. Blended seamlessly into ‘Reaper’, a much slower number that’s one to sit back and experience with some Hendrix-esq guitar to provide aural pleasure. ‘Sweet Freak’ has an infectious guitar hook that sets the head instantly bobbing and sees you reaching for the air guitar. ‘Where’s Your Reality’ continues this vibe, picking up the tempo and a pounding drum and guitar duo steer the song and ensure your attention isn’t diverted for a second. It leads to ‘Michaeldose’, an instrumental with a disconnected guitar riff that will linger for days.
‘Can You Hear Me Now’ is a slice of dystopian psychedelia, so beautifully manipulated its impossible not to want to listen closely and try to work out what’s going on. ‘Simulator’ continues this trend but adds unadulterated garage rock into the mix – a heady concoction that leave you breathless. Just to keep you on your toes it changes track midway before a rapid switch back and an organised chaotic ending that ends back at the start of the preceding track. ‘Urge You’ could be mistaken for a track from a jazz ensemble but adds an interesting intermission, ‘Cavehead’ combines a little of all that has come before with added pacey vocals to leave you gasping. Concluding with title track ‘MEPEM…’ which in itself could be described as a monster weighing in over eight minutes and containing some incredible saxophony that leaves the jaw agape, and all emersed in some deeply complex garage rock riffs – an inciting end that leaves you wanting to start all over again.
Frankie and the Witch Fingers have the bar set high for them, coming from a scene completely saturated with good music, yet repeatedly they manage to carve their own path and stand out from the crowd; a definite contender for album of the year.