Just a few months ago, I was unaware of a band called Wand. Then I belatedly discovered their debut album Ganglion Reef on Drag City imprint God?, which made the #10 slot of my favorite psych albums of last year. Now there’s two albums, with the latest even more impressive than the debut, and they just blew my face off live last night. Instant favorite garage psych band!
There’s no shortage of psychedelic bands these days, and while extremely promising, it was unclear how Wand would stack up with other favorites based on their debut. It was fairly eclectic, ranging from super melodic, 60’s style psych pop of “Broken Candle” to more spastic, loose garage rock, and some pretty impressive guitar chops from leader Cory Hanson. It was a really excellent start, but not completely mind blowing. But just seven months later, the band re-emerges fully formed and full of swagger with Golem. They apparently had been listening to some Electric Wizard and wanted there to be no mistaking them from some of the more twee sounding bands in the genre. It’s not just that it’s so much heavier as much as the songwriting is so confident and captivating, and showing off a new, elevated level of musicianship. Mind blown.
How did they go from relatively unknowns with a promising debut to one of the best touring live bands in the U.S. in just over half a year, when other bands struggle for a decade and don’t get to this level? While they looked fairly young at their Easter Sunday show at the Empty Bottle in Chicago, leader Cory Hanson wasn’t just hatched from a cosmic space egg yesterday. He’s been very busy, playing with Mikal Cronin and Meatbodies, who also had a debut last year, and also guitar for garage punkers together PANGEA since 2005. Their third album Badillac was also one of my favorites last year, but Golem totally eclipses it. In addition to being an energetic, badass guitar player with some impressive stage moves, he has a really distinctive voice. He can do sweet melodies over pop and space rock (see the magnificent “Melted Rope”), or hit the higher registers with quite a lot of power. Interestingly I felt he sounded better live on some of the songs than the double tracked recordings.
There are many psych acts that I probably could live without seeing perform despite enjoying their recordings (I’m on the fence about Temples). While I had a feeling Wand would be special (I bought my ticket for the show back in January), I was still pleasantly surprised how truly tight the band is, even after becoming familiar with the new album. Evan Burrows is not a big guy but packs a huge whallop on the drums, and is really versatile, a must for a band to become a powerful live unit. Bassist and resident longhair Lee Landey can lock down a krautrock groove with Burrows, or nimbly accompany Hanson’s wild changes no problem. Guitarist Daniels Martens exudes a sinister, deliciously creepy serial killer vibe. This is a good thing, trust me. They can play nearly as well as a band of ace musicians like Dungen and write songs as good as Tame Impala, but blow them off the stage. A dangerous combo indeed, and I’m lucky to have seen them in such a great small room before they start selling out shows months in advance like Tame Impala and Ty Segall.
Full disclosure, listening to Electric Wizard didn’t make them quite that heavy or intense. And they don’t need to be. While the guitar fuzz freakouts are gripping when they occasionally explode from a song, the band’s strengths are more about the surprising twists, changes and catchy hooks that sneak up on you, rather than oppressively heavy textures. Every one of the nine songs are keepers. My only criticism applies only to their live show, where Hanson likes to go nuts with extended bouts of guitar noise. He has an arsenal of amazing effects that can be a blast, but at least a few times, he just kept going for a few minutes too long, while the band had little to do. But tours and time will work out these kinks and I’m sure the stage show will be all that more impressive next time I see them. If Hanson continues this prolific streak he could rival Ty Segall. Why the hell not, as long as he can crank out albums as great as Golem. | Buy | Spotify
Go see them!
TUE 04/07/15 Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St Entry w/ Heaters
THU 04/09/15 Missoula, MT @ Stage 112
FRI 04/10/15 Olympia, WA @ Obsidian w/ Vexx, Vats, Underpass
SAT 04/11/15 Vancouver, BC @ The Cobalt w/ Vexx, Chastity Belt
SUN 04/12/15 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir w/ Vexx
TUE 04/14/15 Santa Rosa, CA @ Arlene Francis Center
WED 04/15/15 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill w/ CCR Headcleaner, The Strange Land
THU 04/16/15 Costa Mesa, CA @ The Wayfarer w/ Mild High Club
WED 05/13/15 Bruxelles, BE @ Nuits Botaniques Fest @ Rotonde w/ Twerps, Jessica93
THU 05/14/15 London, UK @ Rough Trade East (In-store)
FRI 05/15/15 Brighton, UK @ The Great Escape Fest @ The Haunt
SAT 05/16/15 Lyon, FR @ Nuits Sonores Fest w/ Clinic, The Soft Moon, Rone, Rabih Beaini
SUN 05/17/15 Barcelona, SP @ Almo2bar
MON 05/18/15 Madrid, SP @ Costello
TUE 05/19/15 San Sebastian, SP @ DabaDaba
WED 05/20/15 Bordeaux, FR @ Rock School Barbey Club
THU 05/21/15 Angers, FR @ Chabada, Levitation Fest Preview
FRI 05/22/15 Saint-Brieuc, FR @ Art Rock Festival
SAT 05/23/15 Utrecht, NL @ Guess Who Fest w/ Thee Oh Sees, Pallbearer, Kevin Morby
SUN 05/24/15 London, UK @ All Dayer Fest
TUE 05/26/15 Berlin, DE @ West Germany
WED 05/27/15 Metz, FR @ Trinitaires w/ Moon Duo
THU 05/28/15 Dudingen, CH @ Kilbi Fest
FRI 05/29/15 Toulouse, FR @ W-E Curiosites w/ Mac DeMarco
SAT 05/30/15 Nimes, FR @ This is Not a Love Song Fest @ Paloma
FRI 06/05/15 Ravena, IT @ Beaches Brew Fest
SAT 06/06/15 Poitiers, FR @ Less Playboy Is More Cowboy Fest
FRI 09/04/15 – 09/06/15 Dorset, UK @ End of the Road Fest