Rick Smith (Torche) Talks Medicine’s To the Happy Few

I was curious if a new Medicine record would be any good. Their debut Shot Forth Self Living was released in 1992 by Creation Records...

I was curious if a new Medicine record would be any good. Their debut Shot Forth Self Living was released in 1992 by Creation Records, a label heavily associated with My Bloody Valentine, which is probably the reason many diehard shoegazers became familiar with the Los Angeles trio and their swirling guitar-noise pop sound.

To the Happy Few is the first Medicine album featuring the Creation Records-era line-up of singer-guitarist Brad Laner, bassist Beth Thompson and drummer Jim Goodall since 1995’s Her Highness. (A different version of the band featuring Laner recorded a mostly electronic album called The Mechanical Forces of Love in 2003.) Almost two decades of not playing together is a long time. But they’ve reformed, if only to show the younger generation of delay-pedal wankers how it’s done. I made the mistake of having my headphones turned up to 100% volume when I first hit play and I pretty much blew my eardrums to hell. As much as I was annoyed at myself, I was also excited to hear the powerful guitar noise that would shapeshift into a hell of a psychedelic roller coaster of an opening track, “Long as the Sun.” And when I say roller coaster, I mean the smoothest, most abrasive, most unpredictable ride possible.

Then came the stand-out track of the record. “It’s Not Enough” had me lying with my eyes closed, feeling like I was blissfully breezing through a sonic field of colorful tone and warm, euphoric energy. It was similar to the initial rush you get from a good drug: everything just feels perfect. It was pretty amazing, and I thought by this point I might have found my new favorite record of the year. It’s no wonder they made this the lead “single” off of the album.

One thing Medicine does — specifically, early on in the record — is switch between sounds drastically from one moment to another. Not styles, but SOUND. Most of the time, the dynamics are not gradual. Imagine driving a tall vehicle on the highway, the hum of the engine and the ground moving beneath you are constant and consistent and you feel adjusted to it. Then all of a sudden, while you’re not paying attention, you run straight into an overpass that was too short for your truck. The truck continues to move at the same speed, only now it’s roofless and there’s a whole new layer of noise over the top as you scrape by. You’re taken by surprise. You see a lot of this in the first half of the record. Lots of rapid-fire left-to-right speaker panning on individual tracks as well. Super-heavy on the swirling effect.

The second side of the record started to find a comfortable place in a more mid-to-slow-paced tempo and ends up feeling more “normal.” Still, the bulk of the listening experience feels like swimming in some kind of audio jelly that’s super thick and tastes pretty good. I’d be very curious to see this record played live.

Despite being apart for so many years, Medicine can still get together and write and record relevant, worthwhile music in their particular style. This is important in a time when so many younger musicians think you can just throw a delay and some fuzz on a guitar and write mediocre songs and rule the world. Medicine gives them all a lesson in tone. Their vision remains clear, the energies are flowing, the darts are nailing the board. I have a feeling this one will grow on me the more I listen to it. Medicine makes people feel good. Yes, it does. Yes, they do.

Rick Smith is a musician and artist best known for his drumming in the Florida hard rock band Torche. You can follow Torche on Twitter here.