Pulled between the poles of escape and engagement - pure enjoyment of surrendering to inebriated derangement versus the need to get a message through, Psychedelic Horseshit are a gloriously messy, provocative proposition. Rooted in lo-fi punk experimentation and making a dense, playful racket that veers between being challenging and genuinely catchy, they’ve kept a step ahead of the lo-fi scene they christened ‘shitgaze’ - drawing on a broad range of influences instead of the xeroxed anorexia of the majority of their peers, ruffling feathers by critically speaking their mind, hacking out caustic, humorous, meaningful lyrics that attempt to navigate a way through ailing contemporary times.
Hailing from Colombus, Ohio (the Rust Belt capital MTV described as “ground zero for lo-fi punk”), Psychedelic Horseshit formed on a whim in the fall of 2005 following their random meeting in the columbus “all night rave scene” from summer of that year. Bonding over their fondness for drugs, girls, and generally causing a crazy, sleazy, ruckus. They began using a bunch of battered equipment (recording to four-track cassette, with a cardboard box for a bass drum and junkshop guitars and keyboards), playing Matt’s “shitty folk songs” as a 3-piece (with drummer Rich Johnston and bassist Jason Roxas). Receiving some early attention via then-strangers Times New Viking, they began playing shows around Columbus with them and others, soon becoming a local favourite and unknowingly fitting into the highly revered Columbus legacy of damaged pop and rock music in the tradition of V-3, Mike Rep and The Quotas, Ron House, Bassholes, etc. The band’s initial releases comprised a handful of homemade small-run CD-Rs (‘The Anticoncept’, ‘Dancey Pants’, ‘Summertime Suicide’, ‘Blown Speaker Standards’ and ‘King Tubby’s Baddness Dub’), until local label Columbus Discount issued a 7”, ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ in August 2006. The single’s first pressing rapidly sold out, and in mid-2007 a five-song 7”, ‘New Wave Hippies’, was quickly followed by a split 7” with Times New Viking and the band’s debut album, ‘Magic Flowers Droned’, released on the consistently great US indie, Siltbreeze.
With over a dozen different bassists coming and going, they toured the States twice, made a couple of SXSW festival appearances and then all of a sudden, via a joke reference on their myspace page, ‘shitgaze’ (the lo-fi genre-term they coined in satire of the early-‘90s British shoegaze phenomenon) blew up and found them getting interviewed by MTV as well as being written up everywhere from Spin to NME. With a deluge of lo-fi bands jumping on the shitgaze bandwagon, PH disappeared for a minute to regroup, releasing only a handful of extremely limited edition EPs and tapes which virtually no-one heard, and getting more attention from Matt’s highly publicized verbal skewerings of everything from Wavves to Vivian Girls, Yeasayer to Deerhunter and Rolling Stone, culminating in the hilarious, infamous Washington Post rant from Matt during 2009’s SXSW festival. That year also saw a slew of releases. A 10-track double 7”, ‘Too Many Hits’, a 12” EP, ‘Shitgaze Anthems’ (on hipster label, Woodsist), plus a couple of tapes (‘Live At Pompeii’ and ‘Magic Flowers Dubbed’) followed by the reissue of their early CD-Rs and other limited-run material on a single record called ‘Golden Oldies’ .
Described by Vice as “the most heart-poundingly great racket since that My Bloody Valentine covers record Comets On Fire never made”; by The Times as “the sound of an angry Mark E Smith stripping wallpaper with a distortion pedal”; and by themselves as “trashcans fucking on cheap speed”, their aesthetic over these first four or five years comprises a chaotic - yet forcefully coherent - cocktail of protest folk (early Dylan and Ochs), barbed garage punk, scrawny white dub, smeared psychedelia, free noise, tin-can electronics, shoegaze, and - most recently - a more sonically expansive move towards the softer-hued, melted vistas of the likes of Black Dice or Animal Collective (“a sorta next gen trash space dub pop experiment”). Wastedly / willfully navigating their way through a densely-layered, scrappy collage of trashed tones, in-the-red mixes, tracks pieced together from multiple takes, different songs mashed together simultaneously through separate channels, and generally resembling the addled states of a full-blown drink and drug binge, they’ve been variously compared to The Fall, The Dead C, early Pavement singles, Royal Trux, Guided By Voices, Sebadoh, Swell Maps, The Velvets, and Harry Pussy, and located alongside the messy amp-blown brilliance of contemporary peers like The Hospitals, Tyvek, Eat Skull, and Sic Alps.
Despite so much unhinged shambling around, Mr. Horseshit has sufficiently sharpened his wit to consistently nail his targets, humorously spewing out against contemporary ills, whilst displaying a host of pop references on a snotty sleeve. Hatching pointed social commentary through snarky wordplay and witty titles (‘We’re Pink Floyd, Bitch’, ‘Bob Dylan’s 42nd Annual Report’, inversions like ‘Bad Vibrations’, ‘The Times Are Not A-Changin’), his rambling, disaffected nasal monotone (recalling Dylan’s social sniping and vocal grain; and the misanthropic rage of Dave “E” McManus from Cleveland’s proto-punk outfit The electric eels) seethes with the corrosive invectives of punk: apathy, hopelessness, impotence, boredom, homogenisation, paranoia, drugs and the decay of the real into the virtual.
In 2010, a limited edition cassette, ‘Acid Tape’ signalled a move towards something more dazed and liquified, increasingly electronic, and with improved production. From the start, the band’s goal was never to be a lo-fi band, but to be “a sonically adventurous pop band that sounded good on drugs, a la Radiohead or MBV”. Now finally climbing out of the lo-fi gutter and progressing in leaps and bounds with each release both in sound and maturity, these kids are never happy with where they are and always looking forward to an explosive future.
Signing to FatCat in late 2010, Psychedelic Horseshit’s debut album for the label, ‘Laced’, was released in May 2011