After forty-odd years of revivals and re-imaginings, garage rock isn't much of a clear-cut genre. Here in L.A., though, where garage is a persistent fixture in the venues and living rooms, you start to find a more consistent sound. It's usually something like surf rock with a rough exterior — a raw, lo-fi groove that reverberates behind a thick wall of fuzz. For the most part, it's not too far removed from the sounds produced by garage's earliest acts, including native legends like The Seeds and The Electric Prunes. It's still going strong, and here are the best five bands doing it in L.A.
Mutations cuts right to the chase, doing garage rock fast and dirty with a flair for fuzzbox vocals and a strict allegiance to the time-honored tenets of three-chord rock. Call it basic if you want, but this no-frills auditory attack style is a garage staple, and these guys are happy to keep tradition going.
Taking cues from post-war doo-wop standards and the tight knit British guitar pop of the late '60s, Neverever offers a gentle, upbeat sound that stands firm in its throwback appeal. Singer Jihae Meek's tremolo vocals are the main attraction, carrying loud and clear over simple melodies swathed in deep layers of distortion.
3. The Blank Tapes
The Blank Tapes are the brainchild of Matt Adams, prolific songwriter and modern day coastal nomad. He's gone from L.A. to SF and back again over the last few years, amassing a catalogue so hefty along the way you've got to stop and wonder whether the guy does anything other than write music. His latest album, Invisible Colors, is a collection of lo-fi rock tracks marked by a distinct So-Cal charm that drips with surf influences.
2. Dirt Dress
Sparseness defines Dirt Dress. All the usual garage markers are there — the reverb, the distant vocals, the straightforward rhythms and popping beats — but the group uses each sound sparingly, constructing tracks that are stark and minimalist but thick with character.
1. White Fence
White Fence is Tim Presley, front man for indie-psych act Darker My Love and alumnus of the late-'90s Bay Area punk scene. But neither of those points hints much at what Presley does as a solo artist (particularly not his time up North, when he was the eyeliner-clad Timmy Stardust of hardcore punk outfit The Nerve Agents). White Fence finds Presley communing with an earlier era of rock and roll, somewhere between The Troggs' debut and Syd Barrett's solo work. His tracks are carefully crafted to match the tone of that period, and the attention to detail makes his recordings eerily archaic — a host of familiar sounds floating slowly across time. If anyone does garage the way it's meant to be done, it's Presley.