Bent Up Halo, the debut album from New York’s Broken Guru, infuses ’60s garage pop and proto punk influences with raw modern energy and impact to create a swaying, gaunt phantom of pure onyx rock ‘n’ roll. Garage bands are often comprised of hep ghouls with one bony hand rifling through an enviable record collection and one foot in the grave that doesn’t want them and in this way Broken Guru don’t break tradition. They’re every bit the lithe revenants you’d expect, but between their sonic mastery and penchant for crafting catchy pop tunes, you’re still likely to succumb to the distinct shimmer in their psychedelic black hole.
Across Bent Up Halo‘s lucky 13 tracks, the trio of Broken Guru lead with a wasted swagger, threatening to topple yet never once falling. From a distance, it all seems quite easy but then we recognize there’s actually an intricate art to such a swagger, a ballet that is a perfectly blended mess of stoned decadence, of casual bats flying through dive bars, blinded by sunglasses in the dark, navigating through confidence and instinct. The go-go ghostliness of “Plight of Imemine” sets the beat that never quite releases you so that by the time you’ve made it to halfway point of “Half Awake” it takes a moment to realize the gentle guitar brilliance despite its glitter and crunch. By this point of Bent Up Halo, the guitars have exuded so much of what’s cool about rock ‘n’ roll that it’s easy to take the good stuff for granted. But a genuinely beautiful soaring solo rips the sky open to reveal stars pushing against the nocturnal inky blackness and we’re gently tapped on the shoulder by how good Bent Up Halo sounds. Haunted house blues flirts vampirically with black-lipped acidic sneering garage that melts the album into a burning dripping whole. Sure, you could disassemble the record and each song would stand capably on its own merit but this Frankenstein’s monster was put together so fluidly that it’s better to slip on the headphones and enjoy the full ride.
Broken Guru bring a sense of humor to Bent Up Halo enough to keep it fun and animated. Yet it remains permeated by fucked-up nocturnal elegance. That’s not to say Bent Up Halo is a dour affair, rather it achieves what other psych rock bands accomplished with their large pallets of color by only using differing shades of black.