Perth, Australia quartet blurs the lines between excess and ridiculousness

What’s in a name? That which we call psychedelic music by any other name would be just as mind-bendingly sublime. So despite the cheeky decision for songwriter and guitarist Jack McEwan to call his Perth, Australia, quartet Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, if you chisel past the edifice, you will find one of the more enlightening and intricate records of the year.

“There’s been a few interesting stories about people’s internet results,” said McEwan of the name. “I don’t think it hinders us, really. It’s great going through customs and telling security. They always chuckle. 

The name is ridiculous, but being sonically preposterous is an exercise in survival for the band, especially on a continent where it seems psychedelic music is the chief export.

The biggest ones, Tame Impala and King Gizzard, loom larger than just an influence on the young Crumpets' self-released sophomore album, And Now for the Whatchamacallit, in that those giants serve as mentors, or native guideposts, for the band’s indulgent ambitions. Sometimes, like on “Social Candy,” it’s a carbon-copy mash-up, blending Tame Impala’s prismatic, skyward production with King Gizzard’s wizardly pop-prog. More often than not, the Crumpets are daring, exploring and finding their way.

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“It’s been pretty uplifting to be compared to two of the best bands of our generation,” said McEwan, currently on an American tour that will land at Ace of Cups on Monday, Oct. 7. “One is headlining festivals and the other is playing to thousands every night. We’re a tadpole still growing in the music world. I think it sticks with you for a while until you can write enough material that diversifies you enough from other bands.”

Indeed, the bulk of Whatchamacallit pushes past the growing pains and into the Crumpets’ unique form of maximalism. Though everything from Queen, Zappa, 10cc, electronica and thrash flit around each song like a radio dial not content to stay still, it’s not cut and paste. McEwan’s auteur approach was to create something quite grand — an Electric Light Orchestra epic that favors excess over modesty, fun over technicality. The highlights come in freaky time-signatures, bubblegum harmonies and frenetic solos that fly like a double-edged Thin Lizzy jawn. It stretches and molds obtuse '70s vibes into millennial boogie rock.

That there is such a boom of wildly engaging psychedelic bands coming from the southern hemisphere shouldn’t be so confounding. The Australian government does, after all, pay grants to artists and musicians looking to spread the country’s culture on an international level, and Psychedelic Porn Crumpets have benefited from that windfall, financing the hi-fi recording of Whatchamacallit and tours around the world. Yet, even if you subsist on hand-outs, with time and resources on your side, evolving into the realm of Tame Impala takes sweat, vision and style. That’s something McEwan and his friends have for days.