SICMaN of Virginia- Mourning Sicness (2014 SICMaN of Virginia)
The first time I heard anything about SICMaN of Virginia was in 2011, when my band MANisDOOMED! was added to a show with them in Norfolk, Va. at the last minute. We listened to some of their songs online, but it was the live show that knocked me on my ass. These guys are accomplished musicians, I would go so far as to use the word virtuoso. After that set, when I tried to convey what they are, all I could say was ” if Black Flag played the Grateful Dead’s music, it would be called SICMaN of Virginia.” the band has been putting out eclectic, Heavy Mellow releases from their own Studio J. Albums such as their last release “Stale as it Ever Was’, which is the only other album of theirs that I have listened to from beginning to end. That album pretty much had me shaking my head in disbelief. The music ran the gamut from psychedelic inflected 60s rave-ups, jazzy-folk meanderings, to sweet ballads, as well as eerie spookjams from outer space. Their 4th and newest release, Mourning Sicness, to me is a turning point for the band, a time where they have built a masterpiece- an object of musical art, where every second has been carefully crafted, with the results being an intelligent, perfectly produced collection of songs you can feel, as well as hear.
The album begins with the band coming heavy, in the form of the fuzzy, balls out Charles from the Raven (see video link below), which features Dave Dreiwitz of Instant Death, and Ween fame.( He and Nashville keyboardist Tim McDonald guest on 4 of the songs on the album) It is a straight-ahead rocker that is reminiscent of an MC5 blast. The dirty heaviness continues on Decapitated, where guitarist Matt Holloman cranks out a distorted, fuzzbomb of reckless abandon. By this time, I was feeling the energy, while ugottalottagumption totally changes the direction and the vibe, sending my body left, when I was about to go right. The intro slips in with a chill Trip-Hop beat, which builds into an Eno era Bowie/early Pink Floyd mindscrew. The segue from dirty distortion, to trippy dreamscape acted as an aural palate cleanser, clearing the way for the whimsical Big Brown Eye, which starts off with a bright acoustic intro, (again, reminding me of early Bowie) it quickly evolves into a heavy, fuzz-laden psychedelic tear. The lyrics are ambiguous enough to where filthy old men, such as myself, immediately imagine the worst, in regards to the meaning in the title. Holloman’s voice ruefully croons “Sometimes you find what you’re looking for, other times you don’t know what you’re looking for, tonight I know what I’m looking for. It’s a big brown eye!!!” I would love to read some of your ideas as to what this song is about. Feel free to use the comments section at the bottom.
The fifth selection, Spaceship (15 to 5 blues) begins the mood swing that takes over at this point of the album, with hints of Grand Funk’s I’m Your Captain, The band melds even tighter together, showcasing the dynamic rhythm section of Joe Welch on Drums and Scott Griffin on Bass, with Matt Holloman‘s expert guitar and vocals. His voice has a lot of range, and he is able to move from one style to another with ease. The next few songs soften a bit, with the funky Sisyfaic, and the beautifully done Blue Cheese , featuring Dave Driewitz. The vocal delivery over the warm, fuzzy distortion makes me imagine a cross between Nick Cave and Donovan; at once gothic, yet there is a definite homage to early psychedelic folk-rock, thanks to the warm, distorted fuzz guitars.
Madness of Life, Blanca Y Lobo and Hey Joey slow things down some. These songs are mellow pieces of layered guitars, keys and mandolins, among other instruments. Blanca Y Lobo hints at the Grateful Dead, while Hey Joey may hold a special place on this album, since drummer Joe Welch and his wife Rachel gave birth 5 months ago to little Joey jr., well before the finishing of this release. Hey Joey’s lilting ballad no sooner fades, and Mourning Sicness once again gets muscular with the song Gagagoogoo, which begins with the sound of a child’s music box, and becomes a dark, post-punk dirge reminiscent of Joy Division, with hints of Television. this is one of my favorite songs of the album,with ghoulish keyboard lines, and my favorite lyric: “it all feels the same”, which is a depressing idea, yet many of us can commiserate.
Dizzo King is a stunning Ska infused tune, which I wasn’t expecting, but was glad to hear, leading to the final song, which I have been wondering about since song #6, because I just wanted to know how they would end such a sick collection of songs. The last one, Soundtrack, was not at all what I was expecting. Its spooky New Wave/Gothic, fuzzy freakout is unlike any other song on the album. I just sat there shaking my head again- just like the first time I witnessed them live. I really envy the people that are about to hear this album for the first time, because I would love to re-experience that feeling of surprise and appreciation you get when you hear music that you just weren’t expecting. Perhaps, I will make up for that by hearing all the little secrets I missed the first time.
Joe, Matt and Scott have a lot of influences, and they wear them on their sleeve; Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Parliament/Funkadelic, Grateful Dead and certainly Ween. That said, like all great musicians, they take those riffs and make them their own, twisting them up with other pieces of their being, creating a unique and mind-blowing sound that distinguishes them from the sea of pretenders out there. They kind of remind me of a freakier Galactic, from New Orleans, without the horns. Norfolk, Va. should be proud to have a band of this calibre creating within it’s boundaries.-It’s not too late to show your appreciation to them, the official release of Mourning Sicness will be on Friday, May 30th at Belmont House of Smoke, in Norfolk, Va. The album is available at the show, or right this minute on Amazon and iTunes (Links Below).
Mourning Sicness available at:
Official Video for Charles From the Raven