- Harvey Bassett has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He was in New York for the birth of hip-hop and in England for the second Summer Of Love. His first 7-inch was played by John Peel in the late '70s. His Sarcastic Study mixes and Black Cock edits had an indelible influence on a new generation of cosmic DJs. He's a musical truffle hound, able to sense things the rest of us can't. These days the international cult of Harvey has grown far beyond the disco-nerd message boards that originally propped him up. He closed Sónar By Day this year, and was given a king's welcome on the 25th anniversary of his first Japanese tour. With his giant reputation in place, now he gives us Wildest Dreams, a throwback rock album steeped in the British psychedelic blues of Cream and Deep Purple.
UK influences aside, Wildest Dreams is West Coast through and through. The cover art is an homage to Kapt. Kopter & The Fabulous Twirly Birds by Randy California, a rather romantic figure himself. (California played with Hendrix and drowned in the Pacific Ocean while rescuing his son.) The influence of LA's most enduring rock band, The Doors, is also undeniable, especially in the album's abundance of Rhodes piano. Finally, in the song "405" (named after the congested Southern California freeway) Harvey speaks on that other great LA tradition: driving.
Harvey got his start drumming and can also shred on guitar. For Wildest Dreams he recruited an unnamed funk band to play psychedelic rock, and banged out this album in four days. In other words, this isn't the most serious work. The lyrics are often ridiculous. In "405," Harvey tells the lady he's with to move over so they can drive a little quicker and "get a half-decent sandwich on the way." "She Loves Me" plucks the entirety of its chorus from the petal-picking mantra ("she loves me not" and so on). "Rollerskates" trades Zeppelin's Tolkien references for surfer-style mermaid mysticism.
Still, the instrumental and production prowess on display is fairly stunning. The guitars, pianos and organs are often hard-panned left and right and given ample space to shine, as is the custom on classic psychedelic records. "Pleasure Swell" is a slow-burn instrumental in the tempo of "Riders On The Storm," and features some tasteful dueling guitars over a shuffling rhythm section. "Yes We Can Can" pays homage to the krautrock giants referenced in its title, particularly in their raging Ege Bamyasi formation, with Harvey pulling off a decent imitation of Jaki Liebezeit's octopus-style drumming.
Wildest Dreams is like a vision of an alternate reality where Harvey never put down the drumsticks in favor of turntables. As the closest thing current DJ culture has to a rock star, he's comfortable in the frontman role. Like Morrison and Hendrix, Bassett is selling a live-free-or-die lifestyle. Though bands like Wooden Shjips and The Black Angels explore similar territory, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better psychedelic rock album this year. Even if that's not what you're in the market for, the long-haired UK ex-pat will continue to do his thing, staying ahead of the game and living out his California dream.
03. Last Ride
05. Pleasure Swell
06. Gypsy Eyes
07. Yes We Can Can
08. She Loves Me Not
09. Off The Lip
10. Scorpion Bay