Let’s give a shout-out to Australia — not for today’s record, but for giving us the neo-psychedelic movement. They gave us bands like Tame Impala and King Gizzard & Lizard Wizard, who, in turn, are inspiring a new generation to add to the mix. It’s unclear whether these bands inspired today’s record, but there’s a clear parallel. BOYO, with their debut album aptly titled Control (stylized as control), have given us a beautiful new album to add to the weed playlist on YouTube.
Based from LA and signed with Danger Collective Records, BOYO is the side project of Robert Tilden, taking a break from his garage rock band Bobby T. and the Slackers. Control’s a bit of a short album, clocking in at around 31 minutes with just ten songs, but BOYO manages to do a lot within this capacity.
The neo-psychedelic movement tends to lean in a poppier direction than its humble ancestors from decades past ever bothered to go. It’s a wonderful thing, honestly, bringing the genre in a more accessible manner to a more impressionable audience. All the pedals and the reverb serve to bob a few heads, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you just need a pop record. That’s exactly what BOYO has given us.
Control is very pleasantly weighted. The better songs are evenly distributed throughout the record, enticing the listener while simultaneously discouraging a limited listen of only — say — its first half. The opener, “See You When I Die,” has us drifting into the album via some wonderful, gingerly picked guitar. In true pop form, the driving beat follows soon after. Keeping with the neo-psych movement, the whole thing is caked in reverb and topped off with apathetic, nasally vocals. That’s not to say that Tilden doesn’t take chances with his vocal strategies, though they tend to be hit-or-miss. Take, for example, the soaring lyrical pitch on “Moombah,” and contrast that with the awkward vocal patterns from the album’s unfortunately chosen single, “Control.” Tilden’s vocal experimentation does pay off at times, though. Most notably in “Alright,” a piece that incites the intimate aesthetic of early bedroom recordings.
The blatantly clear high-point of the album lies in the second song, “TV Shows.” The record as a whole is pretty well characterized by its dark lyricism, and “TV Shows” is no different. Lines like “I hate all my friends / I can’t tell you what it is,” pepper the verses before they lead into a pop rhapsody of a chorus. Tilden’s lofty delivery of the line “I’ve seen those TV shows / I’ve still just wanted something more” sends the song in a gleefully different direction, both lyrically and musically. A distorted, hauntingly beautiful pseudo-solo follows in the post-chorus before falling back into a funk with the next verse. The unfortunately short track ends with a bridge that somehow treads the line between hard rock and pop before we’re lead into “Moombah.”
The record has its low points too. The fifth track, “Won’t Shake,” is the largest blemish on the otherwise solid album. The song plays like Tilden forgot he was no longer in his garage rock group. The production value takes a nosedive – the music loses its comfortable reverb and pop melodies. One could make the argument that Tilden went in this direction purposefully for some artistic reason, but it’s just such a jarring disconnect between the rest of the album; it seems a nonsensical misstep.
Yet, that’s what Tilden does on this record — he tries different things. Despite it being poppy and playful, Tilden wields the psychedelic element to some fairly experimental lengths. Nothing too avant-garde, but he takes these tracks, these pop songs, and transforms them into entirely different entities. It’s not like he just stepped on the reverb pedal, either. Interesting bridges, fantastic vocal melodies, the filtered percussion. Tilden has created a genuinely fun record to listen to. While his dark lyrics juxtaposed with the poppy content may trudge along the border of an “emo” category, the chorus of control’s final song sums up the mood pretty well: “Now you’re happy.”