Strange Lot left Phoenix for the bustling music scene of Austin, Texas to hone their craft and to be a part of the locale garage psych scene. And I must say, the move has paid off, as MindStatE contains the best music the band has ever released.
This second offering is grittier, sharper and more cohesive than its predecessor Gods & Clods. Classic Dead and Company rock n’ roll, blues infusions and mind-bending surf riffs drip from the walls of this record. While other groups are exploring psychedelic sounds through synths and electronica, the band uses them sparingly, opting mostly with good old distortion and crafty guitar work instead. The surf rock influences are especially potent, sometimes moving into full-on classical spanish cadenzas that make you feel like you’re in a trippy Western movie.
“We Belong” is groovy blues-rock at its finest. It narrates the band’s journey through the deserts of Arizona on their venture to Texas. A mirage of vocals and punchy riffs depict the vast and unforgiving landscape. This track feels like The Black Keys on acid. “Such A Feeling” continues the journey, but now the feeling is lighter, with plenty of surf waves to ride along. A feel-good road trip track and an absolute banger.
There are a lot of brain twisting tracks in this album, yet the one that stands out is the title track and centerpiece “MindStatE”. The urgency and rambling confusion of the instruments perfectly reflects the sentiment in its lyrics: “had a better soul / had a better mind state / had a better life / had a better clean slate”. It shares the impetus for the band’s journey. To start over in a new environment, like Saul Goodman moving from crime layer to work in a restaurant chain.
Other tracks like “Two Evils” and “No Revolutions” see the band dipping into other styles of rock while still carrying over their signature otherworldly sound. The former feels like the dance of the dead with its droning vocals and bass, howling like an evil entity is looming above your mind. The latter channels post-punk in its dystopian depictions of society, as a foreboding voice tells everyone that there’s “No Revolutions allowed!”
The record closes with “Read Your Mind”. A welcome change of pace, as the band eases down on the tempo and lets the song burn on its own terms. The result is a lush and wondrous exploration of psych rock with plenty of room to breathe. It suggests that perhaps Strange Lot’s mind state has achieved a certain clarity, achieving a short glimpse of nirvana. A calm sendoff to finish a finely crafted opus.