Psychomagic is more than just an intriguing prefix attached to an even more intriguing and fantastical word.
It actually refers to a psychotherapeutic method used for alleviating emotional problems by appealing to the unconscious mind through symbolic acts. For example, if Steven Fusco, lead singer of the similarly named Portland garage band Psychomagic, couldn’t move past a reckless and guilt-ridden affair in a time of vulnerability, he might craft a song called “Bad Idea” to symbolically put the event to rest.
Although it cannot be confirmed whether or not the rag-tag members of the band are practicing psychomagicians, the title track of their brand new sophomore album, Bad Ideas, can be said to have therapeutic value to anyone with functioning ear-holes and an appreciation for spirited, deathrock influenced, garage-psych. In the track, Fusco puts on his best “Monster Mash”-style Bobby Pickett voice, crooning over a tune that carries the energetic, surfy tone of Guantanamo Baywatch stitched onto the reanimated corpse of the B-52’s “Rock Lobster.” Near the end of the song, Steven recounts his run-in with the seducer that inspired the song in his flowery Transylvanian accent: “I stopped and noticed and I couldn’t help but stare / It wasn’t a girl but a creature in underwear / […] / It finally caught me and I fight with all my might / It asked for a kiss, but it added a bite.” The playfulness of this description lends itself to the tone of music, which can’t help but parody itself and encourage the listener do the same.
However, tongue-in-cheek reinterpretations of niche genres are not the only thing Psychomagic keeps hidden up their sleeve. “Colors Of The Past,” for example, feels starkly subdued next to the more manic, synapse-firing garage rock prevalent on the album. Steven’s vocals are sober, free from irony, and almost melancholy over a minor guitar progression that interacts with a periodic western-style riff. The tone they arrive on sounds similar to Mystic Braves with peppier percussion, and without the bullhorn vocals. Even lyrical content conforms to the atmosphere built by the song as Steven pensively intones, “My thoughts are faded in the dark / You can’t decide the path to choose / … / My mind is filled with ghosts tonight.” Reminiscent of the musings of a restless mind before sleep, the lyrics complement a drowsy, introspective quality of instrumentation.
These two songs seem, more or less, demonstrative of Psychomagic’s musical breadth, but the album at large seems heavily geared toward the frenzied, hipster-punk house party aesthetic, and they do it well. Although I haven’t had a chance to see them live yet, their sturdy arsenal of high energy sonic debauchery is probably indicative of the atmosphere at shows: hysterical, romping, good times that will make you howl at the moon. So whether you like what you hear, or if psychomagic therapy is a part of your healing regimen, go ahead and soak in the good vibrations of these Portland weirdos.
Written by Bryce Woodcock