Caring Is Creepy

Talking love and death with the Psychedelicates

Jeanne Park's doll has an enormous skull that would put Christina Ricci's bountiful stretch of forehead to shame. "I bought this at Walgreens for seven dollars," the vocalist/Farfisa player for the Psychedelicates proclaims proudly, holding the plastic fashionista in front of her at arm's length--as if the creepy little alien might suddenly whip its gargantuan cranium around like Exorcist Barbie. Perching the doll upon a table at the Bryant-Lake Bowl, where the band has gathered to meet the press, Park pushes a button on her back. Fat Head closes her blue eyes. When she opens them again, they're green. She blinks again. Now they're brown. I blink my own eyes. I'm convinced that the next time this frightening, anime-like figure raises her lids, she's gonna shoot ocular laser beams that could convert all of humanity into flesh-eating kittens. Although I'm sure they'd be adorable flesh-eating kittens.

Fact is, I'm prepared for anything: This is only the second time I've come into contact with the Psychedelicates, so I don't know exactly what to expect. I first caught one of their shows when they opened for the Moldy Peaches at the Entry. Park and vocalist/Moog player Tracy T. Weller dedicated one of their songs to 'N Sync's Justin Timberlake--who, I might add, looks quite lovely in doll form. (Too bad I can't say the same of his bandmate Lance Bass, whose plastic incarnation could pass for a homely lesbian Ken doll.) The quintet played a synth-heavy, sequencer-modified set, blending the B-52's with Berlin. It almost sounded more Eighties than the Eighties themselves.

Like Park's doll, the Psychedelicates' new self-titled EP seems simultaneously cute and disturbing. Its third track, "40 Days," is a gothic Castlevania-meets-ABBA epic that drones in a comatose tone, "I wish you were dead/With a silver bullet in your head/If I were you, I'd maybe leave town/Cuz if you don't I'm gonna track you down." And "Off the Hook" transitions from new-wave keyboards into a simulated call from a heavy-breathing stalker--after which point guitarist Mark Pakulski appropriately punctuates the drama with over-the-top riffage.

"We're trying to get away from that whole thing of being like, 'We're girls, so we're gonna write love songs about crying in our rooms over some boy,'" notes Park before taking a swig of her beer. "Our songs are more aggressive than that. Some people hear that we're singing about stalkers or about shooting some guy, and they say, 'Aren't you afraid that people are going to think you're man haters?' But if they really paid attention to our music, they'd know it's tongue-in-cheek."

Let's hope that Pakulski, who happens to be Park's boyfriend, has a sense of humor. (Park recalls that she fell for the guitarist when she discovered that he could do a Prince-like break-dance maneuver that she calls "the lick dance.") Fortunately, it seems that none of the members of the Psychedelicates take anything too seriously--least of all themselves, or the sanctity of Liza Minnelli records. Mark Jensen--who plays sequencing, beats, samples, and synthesizer--unashamedly admits that, not too long ago, he bought the Cabaret star's album Results, in which she collaborates with the Pet Shop Boys. And Weller freely admits that she and Park came from the same dorky background: "We grew up in different places, but we both had the same seventh-grade punk hairdo and the same butterfly glasses," she says.

The Psychedelicates are not afraid to appear uncool--which is precisely what's cool about them. Performing live, they sound like the relatively new band that they are: The vocals can be a little shaky, and sometimes the Moog and the Farfisa don't jibe immediately. But you get the feeling that you're there watching the Psychedelicates at the stage when they're still improving their sound, and that's undoubtedly the most exciting time to catch a local band. You agree, dear reader, don't you? Good. Because if you don't, the Psychedelicates are gonna track you down and put a silver bullet in your head.

Just kidding. They'll probably just sic that blinking doll on you.

Speaking of sick, I'm sure some of you readers out there are sick and tired of hearing me yap-yap-yapping every week about local music. So from now on, I will only yap-yap-yap about bands from Butte, Montana. You don't like that, either? Well, maybe there's a better compromise. How 'bout if I let some local musicians take control of my column from time to time? Okay, then: In a few weeks, I'll be starting the very special Fear of Music installment tentatively called Dear [musician's name here]--you know, like Dear Abby, except that there won't be any of those horrendous charticles explaining communism and capitalism in terms of funny little quips about how cows are treated. That is, unless some rocker out there likes those charticles. Here's what you can do to help: Send music-related questions to me at mmaerz@citypages.com, specifying "Dear Musician" in the subject line. Anything from "What's the best way to record a demo?" and "How can I teach myself to use SuperCollider?" to "Why does [my band/the entire local music scene/the Lance Bass doll] suck so bad?" is acceptable. (But don't be unreasonably mean, please.) Our first host will be Steve Barone of the Hawaii Show. Until then, I'll be pondering my own existential questions about this new column idea--starting with, "What the hell am I thinking?"

 
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