Psych rock never really went anywhere, but it seems like over the past few years the number of bands in the genre that have gotten some promotional push from record labels has increased significantly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as there are plenty of acts out there able to capture the 60s and 70s retro vibe while adding their own spin on things. One of the latest to do so is France’s The Socks, who will be releasing their self-titled debut full length via Small Stone Recordings. Like many of their peers, these guys have gone for a fully analog recording and balance edgy rock grooves with spaced out psychedelic melodies, but do they have what it takes to stand out?
Having gone through the album plenty of times now, the answer to that question seems to be kind of. What’s clear from the first listen is that the instrumentalists are very capable and have good chemistry together, as each of the elements flows together naturally and are performed with precision. The rawer production values also work in The Socks’ favor, as they give the recording that crunchiness that was common throughout 60s/70s rock while also allowing the keyboard and guitar melodies some breathing room. With this sound in place, the instrumentalists move between traditional rock grooves and sprawling psychedelic arrangements that stretch things out a bit and create a hazy atmosphere. There are moments where the material comes into its own and blends its fuzzed out guitar and room filling keyboards in a way that feels different. But at the same time, there are also some songs on this album that came off seeming just a bit too similar to some of the other psych rock bands that I’ve spent a good deal of time listening to in recent months. That’s not to say that The Socks appear to be cloning any one particular act, but they don’t always manage to be truly distinguishable, particularly during some of the shorter numbers.
The vocals are performed by two members of the band and they have they deliver a performance that stands out on each song. What works really well is the way that The Socks is able to move between higher pitched, high energy pitches and more subdued ones that seem to hover over the instrumentals like smoke. There’s an emphasis on dynamics that isn’t always present in this generation of psych rock, as sometimes bands like their instrumental work and vocals to crank the energy level up to their maximum level the entire time. But instead of doing that The Socks ramp things up to be in your face when they want to add extra emphasis and scale things back in a way that makes listeners want to dive in further and pay attention to the mellower moments as well.
If you’re a fan of hazy psych rock and retro grooves done well, The Socks’ debut should be an album you will find enjoyable. But I’m not quite sure just yet if they’re a group that listeners will find truly distinguishable from some of the others in the genre in the coming months. With this debut under their belt these guys can still begin to establish themselves though and if they continue to branch out and really try to make this genre their own I think they’ll come back with even better results.