From their disorienting, darkened photo-overlap cover art, to their press photos depicting the band bathed in a projection of green flowers, everything about Miami’s Lil Daggers, at least on a surface level, emphasizes the psychedelic. The band’s music, as well, takes the listener on a trip of some sort, but not as much as their Poltergeist-in-leather-jackets album art might suggest. The band’s self-titled debut is a work of old-school, 1960s-style garage rock, thick with droning Farfisa and buzzing, jangling guitars. It’s trippy, certainly, but also highly accessible, the kind of psych-rock that doesn’t require the use of illicit substances to fully comprehend.
Beginning with the invigorating clang of opening track “Wasting,” Lil Daggers kick up a noxious cloud of abrasive garage rock on their self-titled debut, blending equal parts Sonics and Sonic Youth, and funneling ’60s garage R&B through a filter of art-punk aesthetics. Yet for as effective Lil Daggers’ intense and cool brand of psych-punk is, they show off a diverse range on their debut, delving into stripped down acoustic hop on “Pignose,” druggy organ dirge on “Ghost Herd,” surf-inspired post-punk on the spectacular “Past Due,” and squealing, Blue Cheer-style heaviness on “Wicked Lady Jam.” And while the band covers a lot of ground here, they do so while maintaining a cohesive thread throughout, their spectral muse leading them through twisted corridors yet yielding an album’s worth of high quality acid punk jams at the end of their journey.
Though Lil Daggers haven’t yet built up the kind of name recognition that Bay Area garage rockers like The Oh Sees have, or for that matter East Coast garage dwellers a la Crystal Stilts or Vivian Girls, their debut album certainly puts them in the same league as far as talent is concerned. Neither overly scuzzy nor too stoned to rock, Lil Daggers do psychedelic rock right, just twisted enough to freak out the squares but, most importantly, rhythmic and accessible enough to get those very same squares dancing in no time.
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.