Described as “contemporary psych-rockers”, The Keys – aside from a few excursions – bathe themselves in a Sea of Tranquillity daze of nebulous, far-out folk from the 60s. Make no mistake, Cardiff’s cosy acid-fuzz dramatists manage the nostalgia trip well, as they confidently blend together elements of Spirit, The Doors and The Bryds with the pastoral psychedelic of more modern day artists and groups like Beck and The Corral.
Evading any trace of their Welsh ancestry, frontman Matthew Evans mournfully sings in an inconspicuous American tone. His diaphanous Roger McGuinn yearnings prove frail on the stunning, though methodical one-speed, Bitten By Wolves opener. Evans is backed by a haunted crackling acoustics and lumbering drums, that build towards an exigous, but lifting Besnard Lakes redolent chorus twist.
Americana and country-rock vibes prove another inspired choice by the band, as they hone in on the hallowed stirring balleds of Midlake for 16 Horses, and the holy double of both The Flying Burrito Brothers and , already mentioned, Byrds, for their tremelo twanged pastiche, When You’re Young – an amalgamation of The Notorious Byrd Brothers and Sweetheart of the Rodeo albums. The pace picks up occasionally, with bursts of Black Keys and, surprisingly, Dandy Warhols scuzzy dirty stomps on I Tried To Find It In Books, and horns of Jehrico, Steppenwolf sleeze on Everyone Loves You. Tex-mex ‘Nuggets’ jaunts and quintessential English psych-pop – the kind so beguilling and dreamily exercuted by The Honeybus and The Casuals – is another mined source of material for the band to absorb.
Lyrically we’re vaguely fed both a diet of religious and metaphorical animalistic references. “God” and “Lord” crop up alongside folklore vocals about mysterious locations inahbited by the album titles allogorical pack of wolves. At times we’re sent on a magic carpet ride through profound meditative hippie prose, “We split a prism, a pyrimid of glass, a vortex through dimensions, the future is the past”: who’d have thought it!
Unlike their fellow compadres and cosmic travellers The Super Furry Animals, The Keys wallow in an atavistic afterglow, and fail to produce a distinct and unique sound of their own, which is a shame as ‘Bitten By Wolves‘ is a stunning and most enjoyable debut.