VIDEO OF THE WEEK: The Vickers “Senseless Life”

The Vickers band

The Vickers band

A couple months back, Italian group The Vickers put out their Ghosts album, a slow burner of a collection with a generous helping of sixties haze. Everything this quartet creates seems to come wrapped in layers of gauze: the beats are pillowy, the bass line, though too mellow to be show-offish, tugs on your sleeve all album long, and the vocals sound like they’re being filtered in over the airwaves from a far-away alternate reality. Though the group made international headway with “She’s Lost,” the first track off Ghosts, the band has a 7″ and four full albums under their belt. A project that began as a couple of classmates messing around with psychedelic covers of Blur and The Kinks songs has grown into a sound that’s eclectic and uniquely billowing. Listening to The Vickers, you get the sense that you can trust these guys to do more than just repeat the Beatles’ Revolver era.

Given the album’s gentle loopiness,  the sun-faded, sweltering video for “Senseless Life” comes as no surprise. From the smudged perspective of a shaky camera, the video takes us at a lazy pace through a sunny day in the country. Its first images are abstract, fading in and out of a picture we can recognize until it settles on sunspots and a close-up shot of a concrete animal statue’s head. We’re in a garden of some kind. The visuals accompanying the song–like the music itself–evoke a soporific idleness that’s so acute you can practically feel the humidity. About halfway through the song’s four minutes, the shot seems to flip around and zoom out, showing a man–the first person to appear in this video–holding a camera to his eye.

Though I’m not sure why, for the first portion of the song, when the lyrics are written like subtitles at the bottom of the screen, it does feel as if many different layers–images over watery silhouettes, sharp text over blurred background–combine to gear “Senseless Life” up to its apex. When that moment comes, with crashing drums and golden rays over a smeared horizon, it seems as if the focus of the  video lies in the accumulation of flecks of light that flicker, fade, and resonate with one another. The music is like that, too: echoed and aesthetic-indulgent. Although much of the Ghosts album feels too optimistic to coincide with the “touch of nineties spleen” that The Vickers refer to when they’re talking about the contemporary twist they bring to their  classic sixties sound, there is a certain heat-borne apathy that pervades “Senseless Life.” But the effect is more meandering than disillusioned, more directionless than bored.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Vickers “Ghosts”

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Ghosts opens with a bassline that worms its way into your brain, immediately hypnotic and catchy. The track, “She’s Lost,” unfurls with reverberating electric guitars that, at some points, craft a smooth wall of echoes and at other points, shred with gnarly intention. It’s a pretty accurate indicator of what the whole ten-track album holds: a blurring of the lines between ’60s psych fuzz and ’90s garage fuzz.

Ghosts is the sophomore full-length release from Italian four-piece The Vickers, who have been making waves in their home country since 2009. Andrea Mastropietro, Francesco Marchi, Federico Sereni, and Marco Biagiotti self-produced the album, and even recorded part of it in their own home studio in Florence, which makes the well-executed density of their songs even more impressive. This album would please even the most staunch psych-rock purists, taking cues from trailblazers like The 13th Floor Elevators. The Vickers play with instantly recognizable psychedelic tools, like trippy organs and reverb-drenched guitars that create a hazy and wobbly texture, but they approach the sound with garage-grunge sensibility.

The fifth track, “All I Need,” for example, borrows a little more from punk rock than classic psych, with its driving bass and percussion and significantly more clear, taut guitar and vocal work that brings The Arctic Monkeys to mind. “Walking On A Rope,” on the other hand, is a distinctly Beatles-inspired number that goes through several changes, switching from a somewhat jangly-pop sound to a wide open, falling-down-the-rabbit-hole sensation. The whole affair is practically an homage to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”  

Meanwhile, “Hear Me Now” and album closer/title track “Ghosts” stand out amongst the bunch as more subtle and simple songs—the former has a sludgy, grungy edge, while the latter is laid back with an air of contentment. All ten of Ghosts’ tracks together form a very well rounded bunch, with a variety of influences that present psychedelia in new lights. The entire album is now streaming on Bandcamp.

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