Keys : Bring Me the Head of Jerry Garcia

Great music stops time.

This is Keys' fifth album. If you have not paid the band full attention before, then now is the time to correct that mistake.

The sound of Bring Me the Head of Jerry Garcia is urgent, vivid and high-spirited. Keys can make music that torrents out of the speakers like a river in spate tearing brutally at anything in its way, but they are capable of subtle meandering too.

This new record has obvious deep debts due to a range of influences: late sixties psychedelic workouts recorded in cramped, flock-wallpapered rooms, sun-kissed West Coast road-songs and aggressive proto-punk wherever it can be found, all tied together with the band's own definite energy.

(Almost) everything here is taut and immediate. Not least as Keys honed these songs live and then recorded them quickly in a two-day session at an old cinema attached to Resolven Miner's Welfare Institute.

It sounds like a place where the band found creative freedom. The untrammelled guitars of Matthew Berry and Gwion Ap Sion shape the songs. Boy Azooga's Davey Newington adds emphatic drums in places and stirs up a freewheeling percussive groove elsewhere. The lyrics are surreal and oddly poetic.

Highlights cartwheel past.

The opening songs - Pussyfooting and (Gareth Bale) Killed My Scene - are a pair of brilliant, raw sonic sketches.

Bad Penny is a pleasing bucolic lollop (there is no other word) which perfectly sets up the wild, ecstatic aural assault of I Only Want You for Your Rock-and-Roll.

Black and White (as noted before) is elemental and energised, a groove built on a hard-driven beat and a clipped, repeated riff that ends in a climatic squall of wah-wah; Funhouse-era Stooges meets Scout Niblett somewhere off the A465.

Leaf Mounds has an abrasive, industrial guitar riff with a heft Tony Iommi would be proud of; the instrumental title track effortlessly mesmerises. Broken Bones drifts wistfully before a shamelessly long, gliding lead-guitar solo gives it electric life.

Track-by-track landmarks from Keys' psych-rock hinterland flash by like station names from a high-speed train window, but it is the heady rush of the journey that shapes the mood.

This is a proper album, immediate in melodic impact, yet justifying a dozen back-to-back listens to find its depths.

Bring Me the Head of Jerry Garcia is a five star psych-dazzle; a bold musical statement, made with glee. Suitably for the decade of its core inspiration, there's a ghost of the defiance symbolised by Billy Casper's two-fingered salute on the iconic cover of Barry Hines' Kes haunting its every moment.

Listen, then check the clock.


KEYS I Black & White