With a name like Droopies, you wouldn’t expect the most upbeat sound. But the Philadelphia/RVA trio’s latest release, Responsible People, boasts 15 tracks of humbling and often beautiful pysch rock. Like their name the lyrical content often reflects a depressed and brooding outlook, but the fuzzy, washed-out textures make you want to curl up inside this record like a warm blanket.
The album opens with the circuitous tone-piece, “I’m Not the Boss.” The falsetto whispers of vocalist/guitarist Chris Harmon weave and layer with his guitar. Repetitive, staccato rhythms from bassist John Graham (Fat Spirit) and drummer Zack Albeitawi entrance the listener as the band dives into their 60’s psych roots.
But unlike their predecessors Droopies give us a little more dirt and melancholy than that era often touched. Fuzz-driven songs front-load the record and propel the listener forward through some really beautiful acoustic passages, that become more and more ethereal as you reach 3/4 of the way through the record and the synthesizer becomes more prevalent. It would be fair to draw modern stylistic comparisons to early Tame Impala, but more depressed.
With song lengths ranging from a minute and a half to just over three minutes, the band leaves very little room for fat. The 15 tracks go by very quickly, which allows each song to establish its own vibe and texture and move on without becoming over-indulgent or wanky in the way psychedelia so often can be.
The title track serves as the tentpole of the album; the most lyrically articulate moment where Harmon sums up senses of loneliness and isolation by addressing relationships with others. “Responsible people turn to others because solitude is unbearable.” Harmon takes on the role of a removed observer; someone who is walled off from the properly functioning world. And through the second half of the record we hear the word “ghost,” and references to the afterlife repeated over different tracks. It gives the whole piece a sense of abstract narrative, mirrored in the mood of their sound as well – as the music becomes more ethereal and distant, so too does the physical form of our outcast narrator.
In the final track, “Sharpened Enamel,” Harmon reinforces ideas of work and responsibility, the corporate environment as a prison and giving your life to something hollow for the sake of material success. Grotesque images of, “a mouthful of maggots and jewels. Entrails and magic expenses include”, really stick out in the 2nd half of the album’s vaporous, and bodiless character.
While the narrative arc is abstract, you can assemble the objects and characters provided and make of it what you will. A lot of this record’s lyrical content lends itself to abstraction. It’s like a dark dream that you wouldn’t quite call a nightmare. You weren’t particularly afraid for your life in the dream, in fact you may have been quite lucid and comfortable in your observation. But upon waking you realize how disturbing and perplexing the whole thing was, as your brain tries to pull together a narrative; the nebulous and ethereal symbols remain just outside its grasp.
All in all it’s high quality psych rock with a brooding alternative twist, and a great trip for those who crave a fever-dream without the sweat-soaked sheets.