The Upsidedown: The Town with Bad Wiring
Portland based six-piece, The Upsidedown, will be gracing Australian shores supporting The Dandy Warhols’ sold out tour this month. In anticipation for their arrival, Heather Vousden reviewed their latest album, “The Town with Bad Wiring”, for Something You Said:
I was first introduced to The Upsidedown’s male vocalist and guitarist Jsun Atoms, through listening to songs from the band, Daydream Machine, of which he also sings lead vocals. The husky heart-melting voice found in their track ‘And I Love Her’ was instantly infectious, leaving me eager to explore other music related to the band and artist, hence leading me to The Upsidedown.
Although produced in 2010, their third full album provides a passionate, authentic blend of energy-driven, psychedelic, folk and shoegazing tracks, which are very much relevant and exciting to listen to in today’s listening environment.
The album has drawn the assistance of some high-profile music legends, including REM’s Peter Buck who makes an appearance on guitar in Wounded Knee, and the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Collin Hegna (who also did the majority of engineering at Portland based Revolver Studios) as well as the Dandy Warhols’ Pete Holmstrom.
Despite featuring high-profile additions, The Upsidedown prove they own their own distinctive sound, which flows through hard, fast guitar-driven psych-rock tracks, and atmospheric recovery melodies in between, while also balancing the efforts of three stunning vocalists; Jsun Atoms, Matt Moore and Tristan Evans. The Town with Bad Wiring offers broad genre experimentation across all twelve tracks.
The album opens with one of its more pop tracks, Something Good, which merges from keyboard modulated effects in to heavier use of guitar pedals, creating a danceable vibe well-suited to capturing the listener for the rest of the hypnotic journey.
Your Sister’s Cool provides a mellow following of psych-rock rhythms, higher pitched melodies and steady drum beats to build up to one of the album’s coolest tracks – La Paloma. This track is a knockout and worth playing loud. Jsun’s smooth vocals, against fast dark surf guitar riffs and swift, sharp drum beats, high-pitched backing singing, and a bass overtone make it hard to sit still once this song kicks in. The album’s title track follows; toning it back with mellow, psychedelic, dreamy sound scapes, harmonised with Jsun’s gently spoken words, allowing the listener to catch their breath and recover from the intensity of the preceding track.
God’s Bare Hands returns to a similar pop resonance found at the start of the album, before Wounded Knee kicks in, which is a gorgeous, gentle melancholy wailing sung by Matt Moore, twisted with hints of sixties influences, and melded with REM’s Peter Buck’s recognisable guitar playing.
Hang On is another strong contender on the album; a psychedelic build-up of pulsing guitar reverberation, steady drumbeats, blended with Jsun’s spoken lyrics, the band’s backing vocals, and high-pitched guitar improvisation layered over the top.
Whiskey Boots of Snake returns to the loud dancing intensity of La Paloma, while taking more of a lean towards raw blues and country. It’s a rhythmical tune with blazing slide guitar and harmonica melodies, driven by a thumping tempo, making it a stand out track.
Spiders, a mellower number, highlights Tristan Evans’ stunning vocals, over acoustic guitar and her gentle bass playing before Indio Bernice, which carries through with the softer energy before working up to the rustic, western feel found in Whiskey Boots of Snake, and the dark surf-rock vibe of La Paloma.
Finally Night Kissed offers a great lead out to the end of the album. It builds up with electronic, psychedelic improvisation, before kicking in to faster drumbeats, guitar rhythms and Jsun’s distinctive vocals, creating the perfect energy to send the listener out on a high before the final song, Katydid, a fitting gentle fade out to this highly diverse and mesmerizing album.
Overall The Town With Bad Wiring provides a wild journey through a sonic wonderland of psychedelic, folk and ambient arrangements. The band’s passion and knowledge for music is evident throughout. This 12-track recording is a provocative, inventive mix with something to offer many. It has left me very much amped to see them on their Australian tour.
Review by Heather Vousden