Since 1995, Tee Pee Records has been the main source for material by bands who truck in a shared aesthetic in not only the cosmic iconography that adorns their covers but a shared love of long-form jams with a hard rock bent. Regardless of the technical proficiency on display, the production makes the recordings feel like casual, albeit rowdy, jams from years gone by.
The three band, three 7” single collection Burnout is the latest missive in this New York label’s agenda to bring hard psych to the masses. The record features two songs each from Harsh Toke, Joy and Sacri Monti, all bands from the San Diego area who have previously released full-lengths on Tee Pee. Though none of the songs reach the extended lengths that these groups are capable of, they do offer a quick shot of their intensity and a glimpse at their influences.
Harsh Toke’s contributions are two Roky Erickson covers, a complement to their recent appearance at Roadburn, Holland’s legendary rock festival, where the band paid tribute to the former 13th Floor Elevator. The results are a mixed affair: the smoldering “Burn The Flames” (originally recorded for the soundtrack to The Return of the Living Dead) finds the quartet simmering against theatrical vocals to middle effect, while the scorching, if somewhat sloppy take on “Bermuda” (the b-side to a 1977 single by Erickson) pays the proper tribute to the garage legend.
The other two acts on this collection share both an original and a cover song. Joy dips into the ‘70s L.A. scene with their take on the sci-fi burner “Spaceship Earth” and their own “Your Time Ain’t Long,” tunes that mark the high point of Burnout!. As the band sings in unison, “I’m here to tell you, you got one life to live!,” leading into a blistering guitar solo, you get a pure shot of the raucous heights these bands can achieve. Just imagine what they could do with more room to ride a groove in a more expansive forum.
The set wraps up with a pair from the quintet known as Sacri Monti. The group burns through a feisty original number and a crunching take on Atomic Rooster’s “Sleeping For Years,” which draws momentum from the interplay of some lively organ playing from Evan Wenskay and screaming guitar work from Dylan Donovan and Brenden Dellar.
The ultimate downside to Burnout is its brevity. With the time constraints of a 7” record to work with, there simply isn’t the space for the groups to stretch out as they do on their albums. Heavy psych rock like this needs to be let loose to boogie, solo and generally whip the listener into a frenzy via repetition and volume. This collection offers the highs, but the buzz fades away far too quickly. Better to go the source and mainline some of these band’s full-length visions.