What with its close relationship to mind altering drugs, there’s always been as much shade as light in your average psychedelic offering.
For all the summer sounds, spaced out sensations and sheer whimsy of Forever Changes, The Velvet Underground & Nico and the Nuggets compilation, there is always a dark undercurrent filled with fear, self-doubt and a wide-eyed confusion about the outside world.
In The Galileo 7’s Tear Your Minds Wide Open, these undercurrents are brought, resolutely, to the surface, with each song exploring some facet of how we – as human beings – can be our own worst enemies.
The band have form for this. Their first long player, 2010’s Are We Having Fun Yet?, was a snapshot of a mind in turmoil, juggling ambitions with fears of commitment to those very same ambitions.
And their second album, Staring at the Sound from 2012, considered feelings of despair, despondency and disconnect. Unsurprising then that five years later (Tear Your Minds… was released at the tail end of 2017), covers themes from a similar palette.
Here the main topic for debate is identity: who you are and how you present yourself versus who others are and how they present themselves – and how this affects all concerned. After all, as the opening song ‘Cold Hearted Stowaway’ puts it, “the easiest person to fool is yourself”.
There’s much talk about wearing masks, doing “the pragmatist shuffle” or becoming “a pattern of behaviours that rarely goes wrong” as a means of self-preservation.
But, by turn, there are also snapshots of others adopting personas as more manipulative means to nefarious ends. Consumers are presented with “too much choice” apparently “free to choose the wisdom of fools” – which is hardly a choice at all.
Meanwhile a low-grade psychopath emulates empathy in ‘One Lie at a Time’ in a bid to make himself feel better and a rather more dangerous – and powerful – possessor of an anti-social personality urges listeners to “trust a lie and hate all the facts” (‘The God of Gaps’).
But in the midst of it all, ‘Mystery Train’ recognises that playing games and putting on personas may not be the best way forward (“I sometimes doubt that this life is mine”). Maybe it’s better to have “the taste of living again”.
By the time we get to the penultimate song, there is a further revelation: ‘Nobody Knows Anything’. Despite the bleak, negative tone of the title, the song is startlingly reassuring: you may worry that you’re not good enough or that your life isn’t going as planned, but don’t be so sure everyone else has got it all worked out.
Look into their eyes, are you so surprised, nobody knows anything
Listen what they say, empty words all day, nobody knows anything.
As something of a departure, the album closes with a short story, ‘The Girl in the Glass Case Beta Version’, accompanied by a thick, dirty sounding swirl of swampy guitars, drums and keyboards which owes something, rhythmically at least, to Focus’ ‘Hocus Pocus’.
Originally intended as liner-notes for the debut Senior Service album (Allan Crockford and Graham Day share a long-intertwined history of band membership), Crockford decided ‘to turn it into some sort of narrative noise piece a bit like ‘The Gift’ by The Velvet Underground.’ Snippets from the track appear between songs at various points earlier in the record.
Telling the tale of the girl of the title trapped inside the glass box of the same title, the story dances around some of the ideas explored earlier in the album: identity and self-awareness; manipulation and the perils of living in the modern world.
It’s a fascinating story, worthy of a detailed review of its own, complete with twists and social commentary, together with the dark undercurrent familiar from the rest of the album.
With album number four (or five, depending on whether you count their “(almost) live” record) under their belts, The Galileo 7 are well into their stride now. Their sound is one of tight turmoil, of well-regulated riotousness. It’s rather spectacular.
Much of this is, no doubt, thanks in large part to Matthew Lambert’s drumming which drives the songs on and on, fast as you like, while Viv Bonsels’ work on the organ provides everything from the mystical drones on ‘The Mask’ through to the whirlwind chaos of ‘Too Much Choice’.
For an album concerned so much with the worries of how one presents oneself to the outside world, Galileo 7’s Tear Your Minds Wide Open is an assured piece of work that shows the fear and self-loathing found within the psychedelic is as relevant now as it ever was.
You can buy Tear Your Minds Wide Open from Damaged Goods
Find out more about The Galileo 7 and Allan Crockford’s other bands along with the history of many other bands and artists from Medway in Do it Yourself: a History of Music in Medway (Cultured Llama).