There are a lot of people out there, living in the periphery, who make it their lifetime goal to hype mediocre garage-and-psych-era albums. I've heard countless records that have been touted as "mind blowing", "fuzz monsters", or "lost/undiscovered classics", only to discover that in actuality they are nothing more than a third-tier Jefferson Airplane knockoff or some such. It seems psych collectors fall into two categories when it comes to overrating these "legendary" slabs of rare wax; the first is the collector who found a completely unremarkable record that just so happens to be rather rare, so he will hype it up in hopes of jacking up the price among other collectors; and there are those who automatically love anything that is obscure, regardless of any musical merit. The latter I can forgive, because genuine enthusiasm, even in the service of God-awful music, is still genuine. The former, on the other hand, are the scum of the earth, and should have their records confiscated and be forced to listen to the most bombastic Broadway show tunes for the rest of their miserable days.
Rarely, though, the raves turn out to be justified. Index, the 1967 self-titled debut from a group of young Michiganders, is one such album. Opening with a strange intro about flying over the plaza de toro in a helicopter, complete with cries of "ole!", the band proceed to ease into a fantastically dark surf rock rendition of the Byrds' Eight Miles High. The whole album continues in a similar vein, seething with a sick desperation, cavernous reverb, snaky guitar lines and sad-sack lyrical content. It's fantastically minimalist, starkly atmospheric, and sprinkled with some truly ferocious guitar work (see the storming surf workout "Shock Wave" and the frenetic closer "Feedback"). I see similarities between this record and the legendary Gandalf album on Capitol, in that both contain a bunch of covers that take the originals and stamp them indelibly with a whole new personality. The lack of major label resources actually benefits the Index recordings greatly, giving them a gritty sound that has the feel of being produced in a dungeon. Anyone interested in garage rock should be forced to listen to this, as should every skinny-jeans wearing Pitchfork.com devotee out there. There are a million bands in Brooklyn today that would trade in their beards to be able to sound like this, which makes it even more astonishing that this record was recorded over forty years ago.
Check it out here, as the limited vinyl reissue on Valord is already becoming pretty scarce.