The distance between San Francisco and Manchester is 5,000 miles, and Californian psychedelic trio Cellar Doors are determined to bridge that distance on their self-titled debut album. The band is already making waves across the Atlantic, having caught the attention of ex-Smiths drummer Mike Joyce and enlisting Inspiral Carpets frontman Stephen Holt as their manager, and their album sounds as though it's been dusted with the grey skies that hover over the streets of Manchester.
Despite this, the album was actually recorded in LA, with a collection of influences from Joy Division to The Velvet Underground informing the sound of the record. Cellar Doors sets out the band's stall clearly: their influences are always apparent, but never overpowering. It's easy to drift into a hazy daydream when listening to the album and to pinpoint where Joy Division or The Stone Roses might have been on the band's mind, but it never detracts from the originality of the songs.
The album serves as a woozy antidote to the barrage of life in 2019, dipping into psychedelic guitar hooks and unfailingly arresting drum fills. The loose thread that's woven into the album's songs centres on pining after a woman, with singer, lyricist and guitarist Sean Fitzsimmons sifting through daydreams about a woman who seems impossible to approach ("City Girl", "In A Dream") before ultimately settling into the comfort of being in a relationship ("Wild Heart").
The trio manages to bring a remarkably full sound to proceedings despite their size, with Miki Rogulji's irrepressibly commanding drumming being a constant highlight throughout the album. Rogulji's drumming comes to the fore on "Prism" and "In A Dream", punctuating the expansive guitar trills that stretch across the songs with his fervent drumming, while Jason Witz' serpentine basslines flow through the album.
But at the core of this album is a sparkling array of ethereal sounds. The Stone Roses-evoking strains of "Heroine" are a fitting tribute to all of the best elements of psychedelic music - it's an unhurried, meandering song that transports the listener beyond the confines of their office or room into a dreamlike summer day. It offers a reprieve from the weight of the world. "Pale Blue" is similarly tranquil and gives a jaunty flair to the album.
This tranquillity doesn't always necessarily lead to the intended results, though. In the first half of the album, the songs have a tendency to drift into each other, sometimes suffering from sounding indistinct from one another. But as the album develops, this ceases to be an issue.
Closer, "Wild Heart" gives an inkling of what the band still has to offer, radiating a cosy warmth as Fitzsimmons recounts falling in love and settling into a relationship. For all of its Mancunian-influenced pomp, Cellar Doors have still managed to make the sound on the album their own. As a starting point, it's a strong effort that's produced an authentic and visceral sound. It's primarily a signpost that shows the direction the band's sound will follow, and it's clear that they have a lot more to offer.
6.9 / 10
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