Jesse Sykes And The Sweet Hereafter Spend The Afterlife In Our Mind & Then The Mystery Gets Solved

A stopped clock is right twice each day and about once a year, Jon Pareles actually does his job well enough to send us off to check out music we had not heard before.  So it was, in early August, that we discovered Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter’s Marble Son.  It’s a beguiling record, spooky, weird, and haunting.  And hugely satisfying.  But of course while Pareles’ description got us intrigued enough to check our couch for quarters before walking down to the iTunes Store, he was off in his description of the band. “There’s nothing neo- about this band’s psychedelica,” he wrote.  Okay, we thought.  We filled up the waterbed, donned our paisley duds, and put on the headphones, only to discover… well, the music’s not quite psychedelic, neo- or otherwise.  Something else, something that we couldn’t quite put our finger on.  It was killing us.  Love the band, the guitarist is a killer, but who’s he when he’s at home, as they say?

On the difficulty of categorizing these guys we might even be sympathetic to the Chief Music Critic For The New York Times, or whatever Jon amounted to, because this is a hard band to get a handle on.   These aren’t refugees from the Summer of Love. Better to imagine Blind Faith recording their album in the Bay Area, in that achy period of post-psychedelic disillusionment.  When they flex their power chords, which they do quite often, the thundering riffs can bring to mind current San Francisco neo-psychs Assemble Head In Starburst Sound, or maybe Black Mountain, though there’s a finger-picking delicacy too. What makes The Sweet Hereafter sui generis — and passing strange — is their leader’s voice.  There is nothing else in rock’n’roll music to compare to Jesse Sykes’ voice.  We’re sort of amazed that someone who sings like she does would think of music for a career path.  And we like her!  This isn’t a put down!  But when we close our eyes and try imagining who might be singing, I swear to God what comes to mind is a vision of The Good Witch breaking into a lamentation over being dumped by the Wizard of Oz.  And then the band leaps into this Quicksilver Messenger Service coda that makes Devendra Banhart’s band seem like plodders.  When Sykes sings a single line, unadorned by harmonies layered on by herself or others, there is something so theatrically out of time that, yeah, I guess psychedelia sounds about right.    And when she fires up the whole chorus — listen to the title track, for starters — angelic magic comes galloping in like a horse of a different color.

So we got to thinking… As unique as Jesse’s voice may be, the guitarist sounds familiar… and is so remarkable, for weeks we’ve been tantalized.  “This sounds like someone, who?”  And we read her bio on her website, and saw the reference to “Wandscher” and thought about it a little… the tumblers begin to click… and we slapped our forehead!  It’s Phil Wandscher, the guitarist from Whiskeytown!  The hugely canny guitarist on only the single greatest record of the ’90s, Strangers Almanac.  And it all makes sense.  So… imagine if Whiskeytown were jamming in some first communion afterparty with the Good Witch…  Well, you get the point.  Now get the album.

3 Responses to “Jesse Sykes And The Sweet Hereafter Spend The Afterlife In Our Mind & Then The Mystery Gets Solved”

  1. yes!

  2. […] Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter (recently discovered by James Buckley at Tulip Frenzy) […]

  3. […] a voice we compared to the Good Witch, and a guitarist with more tricks than the Wizard of Oz, Jesse Sykes &  The Sweet […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: