White Arrows Dry Land Is Not a Myth

[Votiv; 2012]

Styles: deracinated psychedelia, ‘psychotropic’ pop
Others: Givers, Local Natives, Cults, Portugal. The Man, MGMT

Roky, we’re not in Austin anymore. With the changing social context of mind-altering substances in general — from entheogen to psychedelic to psychotropic — so too have we witnessed the deracination of psychedelia as a musical concept, replacing the esoteric and free-spirited with the merely weird. But, as a TMT comrade recently wrote, the weirdness itself is more of an “aesthetic sensibility rather than a musical one.” In dance punk 4/4, L.A.’s White Arrows chant the same mantra, albeit with a more engaging press release than most of their peers. Indeed, with clippings that invariably mention singer Mickey Church’s degree from NYU in ‘shamanic ritual’ — whoever said college wasn’t worth it? — his blindness until age 11, and a revelation that he and a bandmate were half-brothers due to a coincidence involving his father and a sperm bank, White Arrows is a backstory in search of a band.

A cynical decentralist like myself would broadly attribute the record’s failure to satisfy or break new ground to the cultural hegemony of the coasts, anchored in New York where White Arrows was conceived and L.A. where it came to fruition. The truth is far simpler. Dry Land Is Not a Myth fails for two reasons that could have been easily corrected: (1) rock albums, especially rock albums purporting to be “psychotropic,” should never be produced by artists whose primary working medium is the remix, and (2) Church’s weird, pinched vocal delivery, which the editor remedies with a variety of fixes characteristic of overproduced music (see point 1).

Yet I’ve come to believe that ‘psychotropic’ is actually a fine descriptor. Not psychedelic, you see, for that suggests a transportive, hallucinogenic experience that never arrives — “Get Gone,” while it’s a damn catchy single, is about a kid getting kicked out of the house, and most of the album’s songs are about issues of a similar scale. And I don’t mean psychotropic in the sense that they mean either — as a marriage of ‘tropical’ rhythms and psychedelic atmosphere — because that’s just a poor description of the music, which has nothing to do with either. No, I mean the album is psychotropic in the sense of tropism; it’s a stimulus that, if you’re smart and/or have good genes, might make you grow toward the light. To that end, I leave you with a selection of illustrative statements from interviews with Mickey Church:

01. “When we perform we like to play with a lot of visual so there’s like a whole visual aesthetic that we have going on that a lot of bands don’t necessarily have.”

02. “I think we are maybe a bit more left-of-center than the other bands in that category. People always seem to have a hard time pinpointing exactly what we are. We’ve been referenced as sounding like ‘Paul Simon in space,’ ‘Phil Collins’ Tarzan soundtrack on acid,’ or the usual MGMT/Strokes comparisons. We bring a pyschotropical element to the music we make.”

03. “I do acupuncture pretty much every other week when I can.”

04. “I am still uncomfortable with the idea of people looking at me. I like to be cloaked in sensory overload.”

05. “I think there’s a weightlessness to the music.”

Links: White Arrows - Votiv

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