Maybe time machines do exist, maybe the Parisian psych rockers, Os Noctambulos, have found a magic hallway that links the Southern Californian jingle-jangle of the 60s with the shoegaze and baggy music from the 1990s? Maybe.
On first listen, Os Noctambulos’ second helping, ‘Stranger’, from Stolen Body Records might sound recycled and maybe formulaic, but soon, you realise it is a melting pot of psych-surf-pop-garage delights. There is an overwhelming feeling of familiarity here, a sense of déjà vu perhaps. But, what’s wrong with that?
Guitars are drenched in reverb – in fact everything is, and it serves up quite well. Instrumentally there’s everything you would expect from a ‘60s pop outfit: splashy drums, sharp guitars, deep bass and sparse but glistening organ and keyboard sounds. Vocally the album is strong and full of life, the lyrics are heartfelt and full of heartache (you’d be forgiven for thinking that this band might hail from the sunny climbs of the Hollywood hills and not the streets of Paris). But this is just that – authentic sounding, California style pop served on a sepia platter.
The lo-fi production on this album fits perfectly, and adds furthermore to the authenticity of the record. Apparently recorded in three one-day sessions in Paris between December of 2014 and April of last year onto tape (of course), ‘Stranger’ is a record of nostalgia but also timelessness.
However, don’t be fooled in thinking this is just a throwback album, much like the garage-rock renaissance that appeared at the end of the 1990s. Many bands are going back to go forward these days, so-to-speak, and Os Noctambulos are doing that, and doing that well.
Stand-out tracks include lead single ‘Not Everyone’, a track brimming with nervous and pulsing energy. From the warbling organ parts and shimmering lead guitar, this song is a lo-fi slice of classic surf rock in the making. The singer’s haunting melodies and simple but effective lyrics are golden.
Other stand-outs include the endearing ‘No More Tears’ that ends the album in classic heartfelt sadness. The echoes of “no more tears” fill you up with a certain melancholic feeling – a ‘50s sensibility, but with modern wisdom. There’s a country twang that really lifts the sound and straddles ‘Stranger’ between upbeat pop and down-trodden sadness. The album flutters between sunshine pop and moonlit rock effortlessly.
Os Noctambulos has really succeeded in showing their 1960’s influences on this album. You can hear The Byrds, The Zombies and have clearly listened to a Nuggets compilation once or twice. They also draw comparisons to contemporary bands like Real Estate and the more far-out psych of White Fence, and the revivalist spirit of The Brian Jonestown Massacre. (There’s even a bit of vaudeville on the intro to ‘Jordi Taught Me’!)
‘Stranger’ is a spirited and authentic take on ‘60s psychedelia and is full of sonic prowess and heart. There are songs to dance to and songs to sob to.
Stranger releases July 15th and is available to order via Stolen Body here.
Words by Oliver Southgate