Motorpsycho


Lobotomizer

Motorpsycho - Lobotomizer ©1990 Voices Of Wonder
1. Lobotomizer
2. Grinder
3. Hogwash
4. Home Of The Brave
5. Frances
6. Wasted
7. Eternity
8. TFC

Motorpsycho's debut wasn't much of an indication of things to come. This album is a fairly middle-of-the-road hardrock/grunge album, with tracks ranging from dull to fairly good. In a way this album has a lot in common with the stoner rock scene and at times sounding very much so like Spine of God-era Monster Magnet, with heavy guitars, stoned out jams, occational bouts with mad amounts of reverb and somewhat directionless songwriting.

Some of the tracks, like the straight-to-the-point hardrocker "Grinder" and the twelve minute closer "TFC", which hops between quiet verses and Sonic Youth-ish noise-excursions, hit the spot quite well. But others, like the useless "Wasted" and "Home of the Brave" trot along without much of interest happening, except possibly a fairly fun riff. The album does occationally have flashes of the band's future qualities, thanks to some very nice riffs, and experimenting with noise and violin, but it ends up in "for fans only" camp, as the band released so much better material later on. In many ways it seems like a band having lots of fun, but not really found their way yet.

As one might expect, the production on the album is pretty bad and the overall playing is fairly sloppy, but since when did that matter in this genre? The album is probably mainly of interest for people who are already fans of the band's later material, and for people who feel they have to own any and all grunge-ish album they come over. If you want something along these lines, you're probably better off getting Tad's Inhaler or Mudhoney's Superfuzz Bigmuff instead. Thankfully Motorpsycho didn't give up, but went on to bigger and better things.

Review by Øystein H-O

Review date: 03/2001

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Demon Box

Motorpsycho - Demon Box ©1993 Voices Of Wonder
1. Waiting For The One
2. Nothing To Say
3. Feedtime
4. Sunchild
5. Tuesday Morning
6. All Is Loneliness
7. Come On In
8. Step Inside Again
9. Demon Box
10. Babylon
11. Junior
12. Plan #1
13. Sheer Profundity
14. The One Who Went Away

If you were to throw together a heap of Mudhoney, Sonic Youth and various 70s hardrock bands, add a dash of Merzbow and King Crimson, you might very-well get something sounding not too far from this album. Even early on Motorpsycho showed they were a talented bunch of guys. Their playing in itself isn't all that impressive on this album, but the songwriting has already proven to be quite well-developed. They're not here to impress you with their instrumental prowess; they just want to play you a song. They start off somewhat unexpectedly with a catchy acoustic song in which flutes, acoustic guitars, harmonized vocals and a fiddle all work together to make for a great opening. Naturally, they then get their fuzzpedals and let 'er rip.

Throughout the album there's a lot of surprises. There's the hypnotic "All is loneliness" with its sitar and repetitive guitarwork. This is probably the simplest song on here, yet it's also one of the most effective. Think of the feeling you get from the likes of Godspeed You Black Emperor! The seventeen minute titletrack turns into nothing short of a noise-piece in the middle, consisting of a repeating bass-riff and lots of machinesounds, bleeps, shrieks and general unpleasant sounds. It rules if in the right mood. It's insanely annoying if not. Most of the songs are however mid or fast paced grunge or hard rock songs, of varying quality. For a seventy-two minute album there's surprisingly little filler to be found. Some songs sound a bit too similar though, which bogs it down a tad now and then.

The production isn't much to brag about, rather it's what you might expect for this kind of music. It's not down to Darkthrone level or anything, but it's certainly far from the good sound you get from lesser, yet more popular, bands like Nirvana or Dinosaur Jr. I doubt many people into this sort of music will mind. As always with Motorpsycho the vocals are the weakest link. There's basically two approaches here, the old grunge screaming-as-loud-as-I-can-and-tearing-my-throat-apart method, and some rather rusty, not-quite-in-tune "clean" vocals. Still, this music's supposed to be down and dirty. A pretty production-job and Bruce Dickinson behind the mic would result in a big joke of an album, instead of the powerful piece it is. Though it'd be fun to hear ol' Dicky scream "I need you like I need gangrene!"

The music is much less melodic than their later albums, and more riff and sound-driven, so this album might not be for everyone. But if you like some of the bands I've mentioned throughout the review, you might do well in checking out Motorpsycho.

PS: As Motorpsycho are vinyl-freaks most of their albums have bonustracks on the vinyl-edition. This one is no exception and has three extra songs. Dagnabbit.

Review by Øystein H-O

Review date: 03/2001

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Blissard

Motorpsycho - Blissard ©1995 Columbia
1. Sinful, Wind-borne
2. Drug Thing
3. Greener
4. 's Numbness
5. The Nerve Tattoo
6. True Middle
7. S.T.G.
8. Manmower
9. Fools Gold
10. Nathan Daniel's Tune From Hawaii

Maybe Satan didn't steal the teddybear after all. There's reason to believe the out-of-focus object on the cover of this album is indeed the missing teddybear. What can we conclude from this? Can Motorpsycho be Satan? Has the bear taken up a job as a model? Or are Motorpsycho perhaps holding the teddy as hostage in exchange for positive reviews? I'm not sure, but whatever it is, it's mean!

Motorpsycho are a band that suffers a bit by almost all their albums having at least a few filler tracks dampening the overall experience. I suppose that's a problem any band that tries to experiment a bit can suffer from, and what one considers filler is another persons favorite song of all time. On this, their fourth album, the band cut down on the noisier experiments and steer more to fields of indie and hard rock. And it's always positive to find rockbands that incorporate instruments like the thermin, vibraphone and violin. Hell, they throw in an oscillator whilst they're at it!

Most of the songs are quite catchy rocksongs, but with that little extra added in so it doesn't feel trite. Whether it is odd breaks, quirky riffs, unexpected instruments or insane buildups. The mad crescendo that ends off the otherwise quite poppy "The Nerve Tattoo" comes to mind. Personally I've become most fond of the quieter tracks that build themselves up as they go along. "True Middle" is an instrumental song that's accompanied by spoken word. The song itself is actually quite repetitive, but makes perfect use of timbre and dynamics, to build a really tense atmosphere before the songs builds up into a peak, then stoops down into a slow fade out. The following track, "S.T.G." utilizes some of the same effects. During its almost ten minute length it goes from being an awesome hardrock song, to a noisy jamfest, to a very laid back acoustic buildup with various sounds seeping in and out of the soundscape. Slowly it builds itself up and tears itself back down again, really pulling you into the music and constantly hinting that "Now! Right around the corner comes a riff that'll tear your stank head off!" When the change does happen...well, I don't want to spoil it.

Surprisingly, for such a guitar-focused band, the only instrument that really sticks out is the excellent bass playing courtesty of Bent Sæther. Still, this is very much so a band where the instruments work together rather than try to out-play each other, and that's quite a feat in its own right. The vocals are as always the weakest link here, but the uneasy, frailty of the vocals fit the songs quite well. I can't quite imagine this band with someone like Bruce Dickinson or Jon Spencer behind the microphone. Overall the album serves everything from some great hardrock tunes, to some beautiful laid back songs. Unfortunately the last two songs on the album, the acoustic "Fools Gold" and the ambient "Nathan Daniel's tune from Hawaii" end the album on a bit of a sour note, as both are rather dull listens. Still, this doesn't hold this back from being a great album and one of Motorpsycho's finest hours.

Review by Øystein H-O

Review date: 02/2001

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Let Them Eat Cake

Motorpsycho - Let Them Eat Cake ©2000 Columbia
1. The Other Fool
2. Upstairs-downstairs
3. Big Surprise
4. Walkin' With J.
5. Never Let You Out
6. Whip That Ghost
7. Stained Glass
8. My Best Friend
9. 30/30

It's always interesting when a band decides to try a new musical route. Motorpsycho have certainly gone through their fair share of different styles over the year, but it's always been rooted in hard rock. This time, however, this Norwegian trio has gone all-out and produced nothing short of a semi-psychadelic pop album. Luckily these are guys who know what they're doing, so it's neither trite nor boring. No, it's quite the opposite: a remarkable pop-album, chock-full of wonderful, catchy songs.

There's a lot of traces of bands such as the Beatles, Beach Boys and The Who, but there's still a modern tinge to it, and it's still obviously Motorpsycho. They've cut down on the jamming and psychedelia and rather gone for tighter, more composed pieces than normal. This has resulted in a forty-five minute long album, which is quite a surprise after several double-CD releases. Another first for the band is the addition of a horn and string section that contributes a very lush feeling to many of the songs.

The band tries out several moods throughout the album; there's upbeat pop of the first single "The other fool", the acoustic beautiness of "Stained glass", and the funky "Walkin' with J", not to mention the spaced out, almost ambient closer, "30/30"/ The latter plays around with a quite disharmonic opening, giving the song a very tense feeling before it slowly turns into an almost Pink Floyd-ish ballad. All the songs are catchy, yet with enough finesse to make them survive repeated listens. All the songs are structured nicely, letting the music flow smoothly all the way. The songs are given a sense of direction and are able to control the listeners emotions, thus always pulling you into the music.

The guitars, played by Hans Magnus "Snah" Ryan, are more understated than on previous Motorpsycho albums, so you won't find any of the Sonic Youth-inspired guitar-noise-fests like in the past, nor any of the heavy riffing. The occational solos are very tasteful and perfectly executed. They're never really focused entirely upon, so they feel more like proper parts of the songs than solo-breaks. Bent Sæther's bass-playing is usually quite heavy, and played with the virtuosity of a prog or jazz musician, yet with the taste to hold back when needed. Drummer Håkon Gebhardt has no problem equalling his bandmates' talents. His playing is pretty soft most of the way through the album. He's not shy of trying out complicated thing, but he never gets show-offy with it, so you might not even realize it until you really pay attention to the drums. The only place he really comes forth and takes control of the music is the groovy Allman Brothers Band influenced "Whip that ghost".

The guys in the band all share on the vocals, which are all cleanly sung. None of them ever really go for it and SING, but rather use a light talk-singy voice. It gives the album a bit of a personal vibe, which fits the songs perfectly. I'm glad to say that their voices have improved greatly since their rather rusty-sounding vocals of the past, since they could've ruined the beauty of this album. The production is stellar all the way through, giving all the instruments a very ear-pleasing sound, and never burying anything in the mix. There's also a lot of Beatles and Pink Floyd-esque little production-tricks scattered around on the album, to give it that extra touch.

I've tried to think of some weak spots on this album, but I can't seem to find any. Naturally, with the whole retro-theme it might seem a tad regressive, but it's so perfectly executed that I can't fault them for that. This is definitely a strong contender for album of the year, and it might very well be my favorite album by the band. It's certainly their most consistent.

Review by Øystein H-O

Review date: 10/2000

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Phanerothyme

Motorpsycho - Phanerothyme ©2001 Voices Of Wonder
1. Bedroom Eyes
2. For Free
3. B.S.
4. Landslide
5. Go To California
6. Painting The Night Unreal
7. The Slow Phaseout
8. Blindfolded
9. When You're Dead

After a nice little break from putting out at least one album a year, Motorpsycho released what I felt was their best work so far, Let Them Eat Cake. Well, it seems they went back to work, and it only took a year for this follow-up to be released. And it shows. Bleh!

Stylistically we have a continuation of the pop music of the previous album, but with some inclusions of the easy-on-the-ear hard rock from their Barracuda EP. The opening track "Bedroom Eyes" caught me off-guard, as it's the complete opposite of the average attention catchers bands normally go for, but rather a fairly subdued, if somewhat cheesy, ballad. Though it's quickly followed up by the uptempo, quite fun rocker "For free".

These guys are still very capable musicians, and it shows, with all sorts of nifty little things, and plenty of huge grooves to latch onto as well. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that the songs on this album just aren't all that inspired. "Go to California" being a prime example of a "hey, haven't I heard this before" kinda song, which just drags on and on, while tracks such as the dancy "B.S." and almost "Caravan meets Coldplay"-like ballad "Blindfolded" sound kinda nice, but end up just being unfulfilling.

Frankly, this stands as one of my biggest disappointments of 2001, and while the guys are able to come up with some enjoyable bits, there's not much else that I can truly praise on this album than the production, which is both clear and powerful, the first single "The slow phaseout", and the aforementioned "For free". This isn't a horrible album by any means, but I feel that it's several steps down the ladder for Motorpsycho. I'd rather go listen to Let Them Eat Cake or Demon Box when I'm in the mood for this band.

Review by Øystein H-O

Review date: 06/2002

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Barracuda

Motorpsycho - Barracuda ©2001 Stickman
1. Heartbreaker
2. Up 'gainst The Wall
3. Star Star Star
4. Vanishing Point
5. Rattlesnake
6. Dr. Hoffman's Bicycle
7. Glow

Recorded during the same sessions as last year's Let Them Eat Cake, this release is to some extent a counterpoint to that album. While Let Them Eat Cake was a collection of pop-songs, this is the rock'n'roll half of the album. "Heartbreaker" jumps straight into it with a great, groovy, syncopated bass riff, it's quite apparent that this is still not quite a return to their earlier albums. And that first impression pretty much rings true for the entire album, for better and worse. My first impression was that this was a somewhat boring retro-rock release, but Motorpsycho wouldn't be that trite, would they? Thankfully this release doesn't reek of the "let's release some leftover material to make a quick buck" attitude.

The songs vary a fair bit, but essentially sticking to a more concise, less jamming version of Trust Us' most melodic material. The biggest surprise might be the fact that the vocals actually sound pretty good this time, unlike the raw, hoarse, out of tune ones of most of their past material. The songs jump around a good bit, particularly noticable when album closer "Glow" suddenly stops, a few piano notes are heard, and everything pops into auditory chaos, before the band comes back in, pulling it all together. While I admittedly was a good bit disappointed when I first listened to Barracuda, it has kept growing on me for each listen and it currently stands as one of Motorpsycho's most concise and enjoyable recordings. Thanks to the lack of any real filler material, plus all the catchy choruses, this might very well be the best place for the uninitiated to begin their Motorpsycho journey. It's all here, great jamming, great instrumentation, and just plain keen songs. The only real weak spot for me is "Star Star Star", which just sits there, failing at even attempting to grab hold of me and shriek "Yay, I'm swell! Heck, you're going to put me on repeat for the rest of the week!" into my face.

But, barring that one song, this is still prime Motorpsycho-material, where they show us just how to combine amazing musicianship with wonderful songwriting without ever giving the impression that they're just showing off. Let's hope they keep this standard up for many years to come. And remember, if they ever come remotely near you, there is no excuse to miss them, as this is one hell of a live act. Just be warned that if the mood is right, they might throw themselves into into the occational "noise-jam". Now, excuse me, I believe I'll go and listen to "Dr. Hoffman's Bicycle" once more.

Review by Øystein H-O

Review date: 08/2001

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