Phoenix, Ariz. (by way of Memphis) psych-punk outfit Destruction Unit began its ascent into cosmic psychosis as two-thirds of The Reatards — namely, guitarist Jay Reatard and drummer Ryan Rousseau, the latter of whom takes the role of leading the trippy hardcore crew. Yet Destruction Unit — a name as apt as any for a band of this level of intensity — has undergone a pretty dramatic lineup shift since its beginnings. As a matter of practicality, it had to; Reatard, born Jay Lindsey, died in 2010. In a sense, though, Destruction Unit has always been moving away from the scrappy garage punk of The Reatards and toward something far weirder and much more menacing. That’s certainly the case on new album Deep Trip, the band’s first album released on Sacred Bones, a journey that begins with thunderous brutality and gradually gets sucked into a nightmarish K-hole.
On Deep Trip, Rousseau — stepping away from his drums to play guitar — is joined by drummer Andrew Flores, Ryan’s brother Rusty on bass, and two other guitarists, Nick Nappa and Jesco Aurelius. That’s right, there are three guitar players on this album, and whether or not you can make out at any given time what those guitars are doing, you know that they’re there. Deep Trip is a guitar album in the very literal sense that the bulk of the music is made by guitars and lots of them. They come in a few varieties — thick and fuzzy, sharp and shrieking, or drugged-out and weightless — and they’re usually all battling each other for control. But the result is less a sense of chaos than a controlled, effects-laden orgy of power.
The best moments on Deep Trip are those in which Rousseau, Nappa and Aurelius are combining their forces for a relentless beat-down in the name of punk rock. One of these moments happens right off the bat with opening track “The World On Drugs,” which billows out of a swirling psychedelic quagmire and gets rocket-launched into an explosion of volume and energy. There’s a simpler, faster punk variation on “Slow Death Sounds,” and an even shorter, slightly more melodic permutation on “God Trip,” which opens up its barrage for a searing two minutes — which is all it really needs.
Yet, when the band commits to hallucinatory psych-rock, they don’t so much offer a glimpse of ecstatic euphoria as that of the proverbial bad trip. “Final Flight” is just such a trip, pounding and descending with disorienting chord changes and ominous tension. And the furious squalls of “Bumpy Road” stretch out to alien realms and unsafe airspace. The kind of violence that Destruction Unit delivers isn’t uniform, though it’s definitely consistent. A complete listen to Deep Trip should certainly make you feel sore come tomorrow morning.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.