Psych traditionally comes in two shades. Either it dwells in the darkness or it frolics in the light. There never really isn’t much gray area to speak of. Denver, Colorado psych rock band Fingers of the Sun are the lighter side of psych. They are existentialist in the sense that you’re groovy, we’re groovy, and everything is universally copacetic. Their latest record, What Is This Life? does not wander very far from greener pastures and the prospect of a brighter day. It’s not scary trip psych, its happy, fun time psych. The sunflowers will not become ravenous and the rainbows will never degrade into sludge. Fingers of the Sun’s sound is bubble gum, psych pop.
What Is This Life? is an open ended question. To that end, Fingers of the Sun take it to mean, chill. Chill out and let the electric organ stabilize your mood is what they are after. In this sense, they keep up their incense and peppermint air very well. Vocally, Suzi Allegra and Nathan Brasil never waver much from their hypnotic induction patterns. Listening to this pair is a quick means to let earthly tensions melt away. What Is This Life? is a soothing record that finds its center and takes up residence there.
“Another Glorious Green Morning” is a wide-eyed opener taking in all of nature’s wonders. Everything has a sparling aura about them as the jangles suggest. “The Oracle” is a riff on clairvoyance, peering into a crystal ball for consultation. This clickety-clack track is the electric organ’s centerpiece cut. The organ jumps and flails about, buzzing all the premonitions to your mind’s eye. It is a peace of mind moment on this record designed to drive home a mysticism angle. This is the only time Fingers of the Sun relies on hocus pocus to enhance what they are projecting.
The title track, “What Is This Life?” serves up a warming sensation. You find yourself on your back in a field of green, catching renewing rays from a friendly sun, who is wearing shades. Never mind the fact the sun needs to shield itself from itself, the simple mantra of “everything is fine” takes care of your worries about anthropomorphic bodies of gases.
However, not all of their attempts at concise induction are hits. “Meow (An Image of Venice In Tatters)” speeds along on a surf rock blend of psych. The quickening guitars serve as the backdrop to the ineffectual, hollow one word chorus, “meow.” Whether meow is supposed to be a statement on a universal truth or a request to listen to what creatures have to tell us, that’s all beside the point. They’re all singing meow over and over for two and half minutes. Read into that what you will, but it is oversimplified psych sheepishness.
In the last quarter, Fingers of the Sun slow things down considerably. On “May As Well Be On The Moon,” the slow, measured rotation of a turntable is a fitting metaphor for the spinning melody at play. Already in isolation in a snowed in cabin, the melody is a panorama, touring the tight confines. It all essentially comes to a boil like the percolating kettle on the stove.
Luckily, spring is in bloom on “Sometimes I Go Into A Trance.” The finale sways in the smoke of a bonfire. At first, it feels communal with nature and everyone else sharing in that experience. However, when you go on a walk to get away from everything, sometimes you tread into other people’s garbage. What is lamented here is how a good walk can be spoiled. Even when Fingers of the Sun tries to dial back the sunshine, it still does not feel down-and-out melodically.
What Is This Life? does not aspire to take you for a maniacal trip of the senses. Instead, Fingers of the Sun put its ear to the ground and listens. As a result, this earthy record is the safest brand of psych known to the genre. That’s not to say it isn’t captivating. The enduring electric organ, in all its Iron Butterfly inspired glory, completes the serenity notion. Set your psych standards to sublime when taking in What Is This Life?