The Wytches make the kind of music that leads impressionable teenagers astray. You can be sure that had they been around in the mid-nineties, The West Memphis Three, wrongly convicted of Satanism and murder, would have owned a copy of their debut album. With Annabel Dream Reader filed alongside The Misfits and Aleister Crowley, the evidence would have appeared pretty damning. Featuring tracks entitled “Weights and Ties”, “Gravedweller” and “Crying Clown”, it’s the sort of album designed to antagonize hysterical parents, and that on first listen seems to be everything you would expect from a band making music under such ominous monikers.
From emphatic album opener ‘Digsaw’ their self-penned description of ‘Surf Doom’ seems spot on; a tangled mess of reverb and distortion, a sort of sonic cat strangling with 60’s surf musician Dick Dale in attendance amidst a cauldron of deliciously dark guitar riffs. It’s easy to imagine three unhinged and brooding musicians, surf goths singing from the periphery of society, misunderstood and angst ridden. ‘Summer Again’ fits the bill perfectly, an ode to first love gone wrong, clumsily expressed and teeming with sexual repression. However, with their popularity spreading noxiously from the South coast over the past few years like a whispered of Pynchon-esque cult, there must be something more to The Wytches: Something that makes them more than just a guilty pleasure for anyone over the age of eighteen.
This something, as it happens, is a curious pop sensibility, writhing and repressed beneath all the occult paraphernalia. ‘Gravedweller’ has an element of The Arctic Monkeys about it, (though heavily disguised) while ‘Weights and Ties’ makes pretensions towards sunshine pop. With production duties falling to ex The Coral guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones, it’s hardly surprising that the gloom and pessimism isn’t quite as gloomy and pessimistic as it may first appear. In fact, you get the impression that The Wytches aren’t that dark and brooding at all; they’re probably just in it for the free booze and groupies. The video for ‘Robe for Juda‘ sees them raid their little sisters’ dressing up box, lark around on stage and thrust in synchronisation, while Kristian Bell’s rasping and cackling lyrics can drift into hyperbole, particularly in ‘Wire Frame Mattress’. This is music that is meant to be fun, and meant to be danced to.
Scratch beneath the surface and it’s an album packed full of unlikely influences. ‘Beehive Queen’ sounds a little like a heavily sedated Django Django playing at a friend’s Halloween party while ‘Track 13’ is a three minute, stripped back acoustic lament, designed to remind you that beneath all the monkey paws and ouiji boards, these are just good old fashioned guitar songs.
Live: Scala – December 3rd