It’s fitting that The Veils’ Sun Gangs is on Rough Trade, since this is a stunningly beautiful release that takes you back to British indie rock bands of two decades ago like Chameleons UK, Psychedelic Furs, Pulp and especially Echo & The Bunnymen. Singer Finn Andrews’ voice bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Ian McCullough, and the piano underscoring their songs adds a stately backbone and resonance; add to that the guitars that chime out and it could almost be one of those shows when the fog machine seemed to bring a mist transported from across the Atlantic. Then they go into an almost Radiohead art-rock rant. It‘s all so very poetic in that Dylan Thomas way, with lines like “drunk on the sadness of a universe unmanned” peppering the record. At times, Andrews also wields a lyric drenched with pathos almost as self-mockingly ironic as another Englishman: Morrissey. But the Veils are nothing as derivative as all that; they are drafting their own finely filigreed chapter to the volume of English rock.
Former Guided By Voices frontman Robert Pollard’s Circus Devils project with collaborators Tim and Todd Tobias has given birth to some pretty eccentric, proggy musical products, but Gringo may be the most out of left field of them all. It’s the soundtrack to an imaginary spaghetti Western— “sagebrush blowing down the back of my throat” as the Ohioan imagines, like he does everything else, the surreal open spaces of a Western as might be filmed by Alexandro Jodorowsky, a West whose population includes witches and a “Monkey Head.” You can hear acoustic guitars but there’s no twang to be had. Pollard’s genius resides somewhere between eccentric elocutions and making mundane figures of speech sound somehow poetic. “Witness Hill” kicks off the album like it could be the aftermath of a gunfight, but things get strange from then on in. “Shipped From Prison to Prison” and “Stars Out All Night” are incredibly heartrending ballads, and Pollard can’t resist throwing a flat-out rocker with “Gasoline Drinkers.” But still it’s in some surreal Southwest: “Gasoline drinkers, oh no/ it’s coming at me like in dreams/ Ain’t nothing we won’t try/ not like we’re still alive/ it’s only like it never was before.” It’s a movie for the mind.