NEO-PSYCHEDELIA comes in many flavors, and just how well they all go together will be revealed by the psychedelic parfait being served Saturday at the 9:30 club.
The Strawberry Zots are not exactly the Strawberry Alarm Clock, but they do pay homage to that era when garage bands were just starting to get trippy but still remembered their Bo Diddley chord changes. They're the sort of guys whose idea of a Presley cover is "I Can't Control Myself" -- a song written by Reg Presley of the Troggs. The quintet's "Cars, Flowers, Telephones" also includes such vintage material as "Little Latin Lupe Lu" and "Get Me to the World on Time," and these songs are the album's high points; the Zots' organ-pumping originals (with the exception of an annoying novelty track, "Hey Jill!") are serviceable homages, but no competition to the band's models.
On their American major-label debut, "Come Down Heavy," Britain's Thee Hypnotics draw on late-'60s/early-'70s psychedelic hard rock. That includes such commonly reconstituted sounds as Hendrix's, the Doors' and Led Zep's, but the essential ingredient here is clearly the Stooges' rampaging proto-punk freakout, "Fun House." Such Hypnotics-ism as "Half Man Half Boy" and "All Messed Up" are as indebted to Iggy's adolescent angst as the Zots' tunes are to their sources, but Thee Hypnotics play with such fire that they make this grungy, dirgey sound their own.
The day-glo punk-pop aesthetic of Lava Love, a Mitch Easter-produced New South quintet, recalls the B-52's and Blondie without being as distinctive as either. Though "Last Rites for Mr. Wrong" is reasonably clever, singer Esta Hill's lampoonery of contemporary romantic mores is generally about as fresh as titles like "What's Your Sign?" suggest. But at its best -- "Love Rock," say -- this is catchy, winsome stuff, tuneful enough to compensate for the Lavas' lack of conceptual originality.