Diagonals, Valley of the Cyclops
The Austin quintet Diagonals are Steve Garcia, Ryan Camarillo, Wiley Wiggins, Ben Prentice, and Todd Larson, and plenty has been said about the 13th Floor Elevators influence on the their latest album, Valley of the Cyclops. But I think it’s unfair to categorize them as a one-dimensional surf/stoner/psychedelic band. Are they psychedelic? Sure, which is clearly evidenced by their music video for their song “Neil Diamond Blues.” I mean, Children of the Corn-like little girls playing electric guitars and epileptic seizure-inducing color flashes; that video is trippy, to say the least.
And while it’s true that Valley of the Cyclops flows from stoner/surfer rock to grungy garage indie, that’s simply because this band is not of our time. They evoke a simpler era, when the air was a little purer, drugs were the course de jour, and people had free-flowing unprotected sex with a multitude of partners in parks. With flowers in their hair. Valley of the Cyclops also comes with a mini-comic by Michael Berryhill, which, dare I say it, is pretty cool.
The fact is there is more to this band than 13th Floor Elevators. From paying homage to the Rolling Stones in the beginning bars of “Wizard Dome” to overtures of David Bowie circa “Uncle Arthur,” Diagonals infuse their languid brand of Austin rock with echoing guitar fills, minimalist backbeats, grinding organ, and fun, frivolous lyrics. Yes, listening to them will have you feeling that you are in Hawaii surfing the Big Kahuna, sipping mushroom tea while smoking a blunt, but does that mean they’re automatically a surf/stoner/psychedelic rock band? Maybe. If I were to pigeonhole these guys, I’d have to say psychedelic, yes, but with a whole lot of fun and more than a twist of crazy.