It’s not clear whether Wild Rocket’s debut full-length is actually a concept album about getting high in space, but it might as well be, and that’s what I’m going with. Tracing the makings of a story from first track to last, it’s really not that hard to ascertain something like a central theme, a theme that I’d describe as ‘interstellar travel by way of or enhanced by the copious consumption of mind-altering substances’.
Wild Rocket are hardly the first band to take inspiration from that fruitful intersection – hell, it’s Sleep’s entire reason for being, and before them of course the mighty Hawkwind – but going by their debut album Geomagnetic Hallucinations, these local lads stand out for their sheer excitement and enthusiasm about the prospect.
‘Layers’ opens proceedings with an ethereal Eastern melody (so far, so psychedelic) conjuring the image of our intrepid explorers seated lotus-style around a green fire, scents of incense and stronger substances wafting about as the smoke swirls. The song parts tell the tale of their plans – ‘Let’s go into space, maaan’ – and the tune fittingly kicks up a gear as they hit the road towards their launch pad.
Picture them approaching a Jules Verne-ish steampunk missile, securing their payload of shrooms, blotters and bud, and lighting the fuse before blasting away through the atmosphere and into a twisting tunnel or wormhole that’s soundtracked by the second (and best) song ‘Blowholes’: all hurtling rhythms, fuzzed out riffs and burbling synth noises, their ship bursting at the seams but just about holding its structural integrity (shields at maximum, inertial dampeners online).
The lyrics to ‘A Better Place’, as much as I can decipher from the song itself, constitute a justification for self-medication. But the music tells a better story in my mind, as Wild Rocket’s craft emerges from that blowhole into a dodgems ride’s worth of asteroids, bouncing hither and tither across that rocky field before they’re spat out into the expansive one-ness of deepest space.
‘Interplanetary Vibrations’ is all about that one-ness, our explorers stretching out over the album’s longest track – more than nine minutes – to commune with the eternal fabric of time and space, floating on the cosmic carpet laid by its incessant raga-inspired riff while the ship’s computer goes nuts over the top and the subspace communications make for an invocatory chant, invoking what I can’t tell you.
But as their ship breaks down at start of the next track, it leaves the Wild Rocket guys prone and vulnerable to attack from the titular ‘Sulphur Assassins’. Oh no! Time to shake off the chemical effects and get serious with their instruments. And man, don’t those hefty Tad-like chugging riffs hit like photon torpedoes. They emerge from the wreckage with the closing attack of ‘Don’t Ask When’, a last-ditch effort to reach home – or ditch into the core of the nearest star. Either way, it’s a wild ride.
Now you might think that’s all bullshit. But Wild Rocket aren’t bullshitting about their music here, and Geomagnetic Hallcinations is the best you’ve heard them yet. In fact, engineer Tommy O’Sullivan (with a little help from the band in the mix, and James Plotkin’s mastering job) captures their energy in the studio much better than they express themselves live (they were oddly muted when they supported Earth at Whelan’s last month). He also wrangles a robust and clear production that renders every element distinct despite the blown-out sounds at play. That’s the kind of good work that rewards on every listen.