Keeping the Old Flame/Burger Records ethos of bratty, summer-loving bliss alive, The Pharmacy times the release of their brand new album to perfectly coincide with the wind down of the dog days of summer. Aptly titled Spells, it’s a hypnotic, psych-tinged journey through an untamed, kaleidoscopic wilderness. Filled with campfire-ready jams constructed from sludgy strumming and hazy vocals, the entire album oozes a relaxed, chilled out sensibility perfect for any summer afternoon soaked in bud (light).
From start to finish, it’s a sun-drenched sabbatical that screams zero responsibilities and even fewer reservations. Exclusively filled by short, sweet tunes, Spells is ideal easy-listening for any reverb-loving appetite. It’s the kind of music that the descriptor “garage-y” was coined for. Disheveled, disorganized and brief enough to keep ahold of the even the shortest of attention spans, it’s a fun exercise in 70s fuzz rock nostalgia, though one that admittedly suffers a bit through extensive aesthetic adherence.
Take the album’s first single, “Masten Lake Lagoon,” which starts off with cooing harmonics that 180 into rollicky, hair-tousling riffs within the span of seconds. Turning into something akin to your friend’s noodly, improvised set, it’s intentionally disjointed and somewhat frazzled in its direction.
But the surprises end there. It’s obvious that The Pharmacy shy away from any notion of overarching concept, as there is no driving narrative force behind their collection of anthems loosely united by themes of fleeting summer romance and drugged out dalliances. Yet at the same time, they don’t even have that excuse to defend themselves against accusations that all their songs are very short and adhere to a similar sound. It’s a carefully curated style and they’re good at keeping it consistent, which depending on how you look at it, could be a good or bad thing.
Because while short, sweet and rascally are all great buzzword ingredients for stoned summer bliss, there’s something about the album that leaves you wanting more. Yes, there is stylistic variety in the form of tunes like the swingy “Cool and Calm,” the sweet “Anna Bella” or the wallowy “Strange,” but it’s more like you gave the drummer another Valium rather than any notion of real musical innovation. Because while it’s a fun, amicable and a grab-bag of other positive, peace n’ love-related sentiments, by the closing track you’re just itching for something that isn’t another 3 minute long fuzz-infused, drawl-heavy sleeper.
But then again, the young, dumb and drugged thing is a conscious aesthetic choice. And while it’s a shtick that doesn’t work for everyone, this hint of scuzzy stoner love is fitting for days where you’re bored at mom’s and the AC is broken. It’s the kind of sound that there’s a definitive time and place for, as it’s the kind of music that convinces DIY-lovers and high school guitarists that the jam ethos is still alive and that any dude with a drum machine and tambourine can partially record a tape in the back of his dad’s Winnebago.
Distinctly West Coast and imbued with a blatant devil-may-care attitude, it’s a record infused with a pure, naive sort of idea of fun. And while the picky ones may yearn for a bit more variety, The Pharmacy should still be content with the fact that they produced an album that will loop in the background of many PBR-fueled parties this summer.