Cuckoos are real bastards. They lay their eggs in other birds’ nests and deceive their foster parents. Austin fourpiece the Cuckoos are probably very nice, but like their avian namesakes theirs is an act of pretending; with clear nods to the contemporary Oz-Psych of Tame Impala but most notably the classic psychedelic rock of the Doors.
Within the first ten seconds we hear ‘Riders on the Storm’ in the bassline of EP opener ‘Get it On’, but we dismiss this as the track descends into an intoxicating interplay between spaced out sixties organ riff and slide. However, Kenneth Frost may kill it on the keys, but his vocals verge on an average Jim Morrison. As a result, all the interest generated in the intro is sucked out by cliched 1-4-5 progression and lyrics.
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‘Stuck Dreaming of the Girl Next Door’ once again begins interestingly; with an RnB drumbeat and haunting minor arpeggios it is a huge change from the opener. But the seeds of comparison have already been sown, and it seems similar to the Doors’ ‘Love Street’. However, unlike the previous track you can lose yourself in this one; it is both intimate and expansive and (in the best possible way) feels a lot longer than three and a half minutes.
‘Mind Breakthrough’ begins with a modern keyboard riff, but soon once again descends into Doors parody. Frost’s singing does become grungy, but is undermined by lyrics that are more school trip than acid trip. This is also the case in ‘New Sunrise’ with its ‘wake up, cigarette’ attempts at hipness. Lyrically it appears the only ‘trip across a foreign sea’ this band will go on is a cruise as a Doors tribute act. It is shame because not only is he a fantastic singer, musically both these tracks are awesome – Dave North shreds it on ‘Mind Breakthrough’ while Frost’s keyboard on ‘New Sunrise’ is pure Lonerism.
The same can be said for ‘It’s Too Late’, although the chorus has definite nods to the Zombies’ ‘She’s Not There’. It is a scorcher of overblown, almost 80s keys and hardrock guitars. EP closer ‘You’re Gonna Work for Us Until the Day You Die’ is a slower burn, but just as overblown with Frost’s vocals more Axel Rose than ‘Mr Mojo Risin’.
It is tough being a psychedelic band. There are so many, past and present, that it is a constant struggle to make something new and vibrant. The Doors certainly were a starting point for many of today’s acts, but they add something new to this old sound; lo-fi in the case of the Black Angels or pop for Mr Elevator and the Brain Hotel. Copying may be enough for cuckoos (the bird) and may get birds for the Cuckoos (the band), but they require that extra something, to set them apart from the rest.
‘The Cuckoos’ is out now via Relix.
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