“Oh gee whiz,” I thought when I saw the flagrantly pretentious Mark Kostabi-designed martyred Jesus cover art on the new Psychotica release, Espina. “What the heck is going on here?” Fronted by the flamboyant, gender-confused Patrick Briggs, Psychotica have a reputation for being way more image than substance, so I’m delighted to report that while I was busy ignoring them, they evolved into a tight little ball of emotive and explosive hard rock. Though the embarrassingly titled “Ding Dong Dead” starts out sounding like Devo trying to imitate the Sisters of Mercy, this ill-fitting cloak is shed halfway through the song, and Psychotica begin to really rock. Psychotica tout themselves as a gothic band, but the glam-rock theatrics of “Bleeding” owes as much to metal mavens Dio and Dokken as it does to Bauhaus. I’m especially impressed with Briggs’ interpretation of the oft-covered classic ballad of emotional devastation, “MacArthur Park.” Briggs mixes the dramatic vocals of Richard Harris’ mid-’60s version with the syncopated beats of Donna Summer’s disco standard to create a modern rock heart-tugger. I can even forgive him for singing “Sweet Green Icing” instead of “Sweet Cream Icing.” I mean, it somehow fits.
Richly produced by Doug DeAngelis, Espina flows smoothly with a powerful musical energy and refreshing lyrical maturity. A dark little treasure waiting to be discovered. Zero Hour, 14 West 23rd St., New York NY 10010