For as long as there’s been alternative music, there has been the Guitar Freakout: a noisy, cathartic, sprawling song that’s perfect to close a set or an album. It provides a chance for a band to let loose, throw caution to the wind and, if you’ll pardon the technical jargon, really go to town on a motherfucker. Chops are optional, and in some cases detrimental; all that matters is that you’re willing to get loud enough to blow out your amps.
The Velvet Underground didn’t necessarily invent the Guitar Freakout, but you could argue that they perfected it with “Sister Ray”, a breathtaking slab of proto-punk filth that ran for seventeen minutes but could have just as easily kept going until the end of time. Rock experimentalists like Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham pushed the limits of their instrument, leading small armies of guitarists through pieces that were as intricately composed as they were face-meltingly loud. My Bloody Valentine, a shoegaze band legally obligated to hand out earplugs at their concerts, has “You Made Me Realise”, which has a harrowing noise break that they can stretch out to twenty minutes live.
Dead Lucid, a psych-punk outfit based in Chicago, continues this tradition with “Desolation”, the title track off their new EP. Their site lists The Stooges and Jimi Hendrix among their influences, and you can hear the primordial power of the former along with the fiery psychedelic distortion of the latter. There are only a few short lyrics in the middle of the song,
but the real focus is the guitar: heavy, satisfying, and red-hot, the kind of sound that feels like it’s ripping through the air.
This is, of course, an improvisation, or a “jam”. I have plenty of patience for this sort of thing (this is the same person who once listened to Can’s “Halleluwah” on loop for six hours, mind you), but those of you who are more interested in intricately-crafted songs might balk. But, just because a song doesn’t adhere to a songwriting formula doesn’t mean it’s not a great piece of music, and if you’ve got an open mind you’ll love this. Just remember to play it loud.
More Dead Lucid…