Psych pop freak out

    Have you heard Please Step Out of the Vehicle? If not, you’ve probably heard of them. They were voted Portland’s #4 best new band in this year’s poll in the Willamette Week. How about The Shaky Hands? They’re more on the garage rock tip, but also a lot of fun and the match-up of these two is pretty natural. They open this Monday, Oct. 16 at Berbati’s for The Archie Bronson Outfit, a genuine UK psych band who’s coming through town.

    The easiest description of Please Step Out of the Vehicle has already been stated elsewhere: Pavement meets Flaming Lips. Only they’re not just that- this talented Portland six-piece band has fun with their music and sound like they’re playing the songs for their own enjoyment, as well as ours.

Their songs often have a kind of lazy, shuffling, sauntering behind-the-beat arrangement, plus some group vocals, double-tracked vocals, and crazy, seemingly random sounds. Their song “PSOOTV Theme Tri Field Force” sounds like spaceships taking off, with video game samples and programmed synth-madness. It fits nicely on top of a layer of delicately picked, gracefully melodic acoustic guitar.

    The second song on their album Sleeping Right And The Best In Homeopathic Magic is called “- Every Molecule” and it begins with vocals, a steady hi-hat, and sparse electric guitar and bass holding down the chord structure. The vocals are right up front, which is nice to hear on an indie recording, and the lyrics are immediately relatable and thought-provoking: “Life’s not the way that it ought to be, no, sometimes you’re forced, you’re forced to learn this faster.” When the verse finishes out, then come the driving drums, a haphazard horn section that sounds like each member is playing a beat or two behind the guy next to him, and finally some weird creeping synth noises are added which close out the song like a computer shutting down.

    Not that the music is all completely out of control, for in the very next song, “Pitch,” the horn section is tight, and a slide guitar and flute provide some polite, gentle lead melodic lines. It’s a perfect song for a lazy Sunday afternoon, and the strolling rhythm guitar and drums propel the song along at a stroll-riffic pace.

    More controlled chaos is found throughout their album on tracks like “We Will Go Everywhere” (Parts 1 and 2) and “In Thee, Fall Sky,” which starts like a Zombies-esque garage rock number, but at about a minute and twenty seconds in, the madness slowly starts to set in, and the freak-out music takes over.

    The Shaky Hands are less prone to all-out noise in their songs, and play more of a traditional garagey indie rock. They are a local five-member band (not to be confused with the New Zealand band of the same name who toured with We Are Scientists) and they’ve been getting a good deal of attention lately as well. Hutch Harris (of The Thermals) said on Pitchfork they’re the best new band and that he saw The Shaky Hands at a house show and “it was fucking awesome.” So what more do you need?

    Some of the guitar work is reminiscent of Joey Santiago’s piercing, left-field guitar work, especially on The Shaky Hands’ “Hold it up”, which is driven by furiously strummed minor-key acoustic guitar chords and steady drums which play alone on a totally rocking, crashing middle section.

    A very notable point of The Shaky Hands, though, is the distinct vocals provided by Nick Delffs, who also plays guitar. On the song “The Sleepless,” he sings of trees, shadows, a place he can stay, love, and something being lovely. But it’s the way he sings that’s really captivating – the hat-off-balance, wavery, double-tracked indie way which is de rigueur these days.