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Ganglians Monster Head Room Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Dreamy psych-pop meets tropical desert island indie-rock jangle.

Adam Kennedy 2010

Evoking giddy days lounging in light-dappled woodland clearings, a naturalistic heart beats within amorphous Sacramento mini-collective Ganglians’ debut album. The open-air adolescent rush is so perceptible, in fact, that only birdcalls and cricket chirps could enrich the hazy outdoors atmosphere.

Lent a UK release after emerging in their homeland last year, Monster Head Room’s animalistic charms are admittedly closer to bearded hippy grizzly man than primal scream. Intermingling dreamy psych-pop with tropical desert island indie-rock jangle refreshing as palm leaf fans, pinning down where to mentally file them isn’t quite so relaxing.

It would, admittedly, make neat-and-tidy tangibility to throw Ganglians into the lo-fi waters that have flowed from their native California since the late 2000s. It wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate to draw loose parallels with shoegazing manchild Wavves or cult-raised oddballs Girls, either. Such restrictive labelling proves a treacherous proposition, however.

Faced with an instinctive dual grasp of melody and, sporadically, discordance, numerous Beach Boys comparisons have already stuck to Ganglians. The inspiration is merely tangential in reality, despite Something Should Be Said greeting us with a mini-starter of Smarties-sweet a cappella harmonies. That continues into first track proper Voodoo and at subsequent points too numerous to fully list: notably flowering music box Valient Brave.

The Void marks a darker twist to what, until then, has been a resolutely good trip, revealing nightmarish cacophonies of lost soul voices and unsettling instrumentation. The warped twilight campfire paean To June restores parity though, and Cryin’ Smoke, with its desire to “smoke my reefer in the bathroom”, is a sweet strum that unmistakably confirms Monster Head Room as a summer evening soundtrack. Accompanying weather other than brilliant sunshine will render it oddly juxtaposed as donning Bermuda shorts in midwinter.

At the thick end of an hour, it represents a marathon contrasted with many contemporaries, with two bonus tracks added to the original US edition. The elongation may arguably dilute its impact a mite. But it does hint Ganglians are operating with sufficient depth to rebuff notions that Monster Head Room is merely the sound of another name for indie-rock hipsters to drop.

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