Grooves and guitars ensure "Psychopharmacologist" will capture hearts
Psychopharmacologist - Mick Medew (I-94 Bar Records)
Issued by this website's very own head honcho, The Barman, who is responsible for organising many, many gigs which you've all thoroughly enjoyed. The kind of punter who decides he wants to see bands, and figures you will, too, so he puts them on.
This LP rates 5 bottles, and that's not because I know Barman and he's slipped me a brown envelope behind the cistern at Central Station, but because “Psychopharmacologist” is bloody lovely, and you absolutely need it in your collection. The press release explains that this is “Mick Medew’s first true solo album and his most surprising musical adventure yet with its broad stylistic sweep and kaleidoscopic use of sound”, and that's a fair comment.
“Sea of Souls” is a gently-teasing opener, with a rather lovely guitar figure up-front. By the time we've hit “When the Wood is Brown (Full Return)”, we're well ensconced in a 1960s-style, music played with an ear for tune, texture and resonant meaning, with Mick's unique voice filling our ears.
Every song here is strong, sinewy, and makes you feel damn good. A bit like the first time you ever heard 1960s music. Yeah, alright, some of that was awful, I know, like the 1970s. But when you heard the songs which uplifted you, your head was turned and your eyes bulged. Where did this honeyed sound come from? Third song, "Koln", is a summery, gorgeous instrumental, followed by "Betty Jackson" which, with Medew's distinctive voice, makes a serious topic sound positively romantic.
“Red Head” captures that perfect series of moments when you gets your heart captured by a woman, with Medew's yearning pedal steel offset with light-hearted strumming. The instrumental version of the Screaming Tribesmen's “Igloo” would get your attention alone, it's all back-porch reflective and ruminatory.
The LP's title track, “Psychopharmacologist” is a well-groovy instrumental which will have you gently bopping in the dark.
Another pulsing groovitan, “Black Cowboy” is next, with Mick seducing us out of our socks in the shrubbery.
Bassist from Mick's band The Mesmerisers, Lois Andrews, and Mick’s partner-keyboardist, Ursula Collie, add extra depth and resonance with intelligence and a gently quirky spirit (some of the sounds which I presume Ursula has come up with are bloody wonderful, and very well-chosen).
The press release says nice things about echoes of Hendrix, Berlin Bowie and The Byrds. Well, perhaps. That may be where Mick's head was at, but I'm rubbish at spotting influences. Hell, there's a noticeable Kraftwerkian moment, as well as what sounds like a bit of early Wall of Voodoo, and an obvious Ennio Morricone. No, what comes across is a man who constructs the kind of song which the hip radio stations should be playing. I have my favourites here, but a few really belong in a film - or, as with “Black Cowboy”, opening one.
The last song, “Where the Crows Fly Backward”, I won't spoil for you.
Some people can only do nasty. Some people can only rock out. Some people can only squeal, shout and squawk. “Psychopharmacologist” shows a consistently honest, sweet part of one man's nature and, apart from that being such a relative rarity you must have it in your collection, “Psychopharmacologist” is a bloody beautiful album, and that's definitely special. Come on, how often do you hear an album made by a genuine romantic? So much gorgeous music. Like I say, an essential 5 bottles.
Needless to say, listening just wasn't enough, so I decided to ask the man a few questions
The Barman mentions on the Bandcamp page for the new album that it's reminiscent of Hendrix, Byrds and Berlin-era Bowie. Was that actually accurate, what you were listening to as you came up with these songs?
MM: I have always listened a lot to Hendrix , lately I have been listening to a lot of Jeff Beck which is not unusual for me either , I often wonder what Jimi would sound like these days if he had survived like Jeff has.
I guess the Bowie-Berlin comparison is kind of true, but more like Iggy Pop with David Bowie helping him. Lately I've been listening to The B52s and New Christs, but I don't know if that has been an influence on this record.
First thing people might think is, gosh, a few instrumentals. Me, I'd rather have a decent instrumental than ruin one with shit lyrics. Why so many instrumentals, though?
MM: Yes, there are a few instrumentals, I have had a few tunes laying around that I've not done much with, but there was always something about the ones that are recorded on "Psychopharmacologist" that I liked, and I thought they needed to see the light of day. To compound things I recently purchased a couple of loop pedals to help colour my solo shows, I found this really worked for me and has resulted in me being empowered to make a lot of instrumental music, although I don't think I'll have as many on my next album.
There's a lot of what seems to me to be carefully worked-out tunes and progressions; what was to the fore as these songs were coming together?
MM: This album was always going to be different. Since COVID-19 I've not been able to rehearse with my full band as our drummer Michael Charles lives in Tweed Heads, and the Queensland border is currently closed to New South Wales.
I wanted to make an album and the situation has left me with my long time friend, Band member and engineer producer Brian Mann to collaborate with. Lois Andrews (The Mesmerisers bass player) also pitched in some bass and production duties on "When the Wood is Brown (Full Return)"; Also with the Covid 19 thing, I started jamming with my fiance, Ursula (as you are aware I play with her now in a new duo) and I enlisted her help on "Psychopharmacologist" as well. I wanted to do something unexpected; I didn't want to make another 'Power Pop'' album like "Open Season", especially since it's only been 12 months since that release.
Now, it's been a long time since the Screaming Tribesmen, but why an instrumental of "Igloo"?
MM: I started doing an instrumental version of Igloo in my solo performances , it always brings the house down and so I thought why not include it on this album?
Can't argue with that, of course ... lso, here's one: how did you end up choosing guitar? And what were you hoping to happen with it once you'd figured out how to play?
MM: When I was growing up my Uncle Joe used to play Johnny Cash all the time , this is what turned me on to the guitar to start with. I found it difficult to make friends when I was younger and the guitar was my constant companion, I think it saved my life.
What do you do these days when you're not holed up in a studio making music?
MM: These days my whole life is making music, writing, recording, performing, listening (now to the radio more than ever). Seeing live music was my first real love and that is still true even now, I think I need to find an extra interest, LOL!
- Robert Brokenmouth
Hello I-94 Barflies! The wonderfully talented Mick Medew has a new solo album out very soon and it is a beautiful record, showcasing Mick's guitar playing and vocals. "Psychopharmacologist" is full of instrumentals and some classic country tracks.
"Sea of Souls" is the first track and has some fabulous guitar-work. "When The Wood Is Brown (Full Return)" is one fine track with Lois Andrews from Mick's band The Mesmerisers assisting on bass guitar.
"Koln" and "Where The Crows Fly Backwards" has the future Mrs Medew, the lovely Ursula "Border" Collie, on keyboards; these are both instrumentals and both great tracks. "Betty Jackson" and "Red Head" have a country Stones feel and I love both these tunes.
If you have been catching Mick's Sunday afternoon sessions on his Facebook page or one of his solo live shows in a hotel (remember them?), well, I'm sure you would have picked up on his original Screaming Tribesmen song "Igloo" done as an instrumental. It's here and a good one for budding musicians to play along with.
And "Psychopharmacologist" (the title track) has some trippy guitars.
This album was recorded between April and July at Brian Mann's studio in Annerley, Brisbane, where adds sonic textures on this most wonderful album.
So Barflies, I highly recommend this album. It is a bit different from Mick's previous releases and bit slower with some instrumentals - but it shows how diverse Mick can be and what a wonderful guitar player he is. So folks, order it at the link below and get in contact with The Barman for your CD and digital copy.
Stay Healthy! From The Farmhouse. - Ron Brown
Out on September 25 and available here.