Thee Vicars

Psychotic Beat!

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Bands all over the world have been bashing out garage rock sounds long enough that simply playing the old changes fast, loud, and dirty doesn't set anyone apart anymore, so a band in the 21st century garage game needs something to set themselves apart from the pack. Thee Vicars, hailing from the otherwise unremarkable British community of Bury St. Edmunds, seem to be aiming for the title of Most Intense Garage Combo on Earth on their second LP, Psychotic Beat!; bassist and lead vocalist Mike Whittaker sounds unusually wired within the boundaries of a genre where a "Whataya Got?" sneer is usually the state of the art, and his bandmates (Markus Volkert and Chris Langeland on guitars, Will Pattenden on drums) hit hard and attack the tunes with an above-average velocity on these sessions. While Billy Childish is a clear melodic and lyrical influence on Thee Vicars, they don't quite capture his level of blunt eloquence as songwriters (someone should point out that the failed hipster in "What's the Latest" isn't going to find a new favorite band watching MTV these days), and fall short of the raw glory of his music. But the group's lines are cleaner and tighter than most of their contemporaries, and Whittaker manages to sound like his eyes are almost popping out without entirely losing the studied cool that's at the heart of most U.K. beat revivalists. And when Thee Vicars hit a groove, they sound pretty impressive, and tunes like "Last Night," "Almost There," and "The Beat" are strong enough to make a believer of most garage obsessives. Thee Vicars aren't exactly rewriting the blueprints of rock history by fusing speedy punk passion with garage rock melodies, but they do it better than the sizable majority of acts following this template, and when Whittaker screams at full force, Psychotic Beat! comes admirably close to living up to its name.

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