The first time I’d heard Ben Montero was on the epic 2012 compilation of Australian psych bands covering Nuggets-era classics. That comp held plenty of now solidified-status rockers (King Gizz, The Living Eyes, Pond) doing their best to tear up some of the most ragged bits of the famous ’60s compilation. Montero erred in the other direction however, taking on Sagittarius’ lush psych-pop number “My World Fell Down,” embracing that track’s baroque beauty but giving it some edge as well. That dedication to the softer side of psych persists on his debut for Chapter Music, a study in swoons and swells that’s dripping with glycerine dreams of psych-pop in the grand tradition of latter day Lips, Tame Impala and Mercury Rev.
The album is produced by Jay Watson (Tame Impala, Pond) and as such it reaches for the heights of those larger acts while retaining a bit of the austerity that befits his indie label status. For the most part Montero’s indulgence in the pillowed psych of ELO and Todd Rundgren works in his favor, but sometimes he aims too heavy for the pop crossover that’s favored acts like Tame Impala. While Impala’s been able to swing wide from indulging too heavily in the repetitive or cloying aspects of radio-ready pop while still courting a wide audience, there are moments on Performer that cross the line. There’s a relaxed plush quality to singles like “Caught Up In My Own World” and “Running Race,” but the refrain on the album’s title track gets to be a bit grating the more I hear it and sticks out like a sore thumb on an album that’s going for grace over hits.
That misstep aside, this positions Montero for a bigger future given his trajectory. Aussie’s have a pretty decent lock on a brand of big britches psych pop these days, with the exception of perhaps Temples and Hookworms, and Montero makes a good bid to put his name aside some of those larger acts as a contemporary.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.