By Evan Verploegh
Narco States’ Wicked Sun record oozes an ideal concoction of aggressive garage-rock and eerie psychedelia. In the Minneapolis band’s first LP release, they prove emphatically that they have not only a high level of musicianship, but an experimental, genre-spanning sound that has a firm root of 1960’s influence.
The quintet is driven by the sinister organ playing of Aaron Robertson. Roberson’s style carries a weight so prevalent in Narco States’ attitude that it would make Ray Manzarek proud. His work is put on notable display in the uptempo, surf-jazz track, “The Architect” and the ghostly, middle eastern influenced, “Jekyll Meet Hyde”.
The shape-shifting vocals of Michael Meyer allows the band to tackle a variety of moods and demeanors. Just when you think lead singer/guitarist, Meyer might drop dead from his howling, antagonistic vocals, he catches you off guard with verse of smooth, sultry baritone. The sixth track “Amputated” puts Meyer’s vocal range on full display as he alternates between blood-curdling screams and a Mick Jagger-like arrogance.
The high point of the album comes in the 4th track “Invasion”. The track starts quickly with an infectious organ line and spacious guitar chords. “Invasion” begins to open up around the 2:40 mark as Robertson begins laying on his organ and lead guitarist Nate McGuire begins chiming in with a stream of dissonant and subtle noodling. At 5:12 we hear our first hints that drummer Erik Johnson is still around after nearly three minutes of absence. The temper of the song escalates before we find ourselves in the middle of a full-on, Sabbath-style onslaught to nod our heads to, courtesy of bassist Nick Sampson’s resounding licks.
When the dust settles, Wicked Sun manifests itself as a beautifully dark and chaotic record that begs to be translated into a live setting. Narco States has proven to not only a timeless, powerful sound, but the ability to test themselves and push the boundaries of garage rock.