The Fort Wayne psychedelic collective known as Heaven’s Gateway Drugs have been honing their mix of sixties psych pop, ’70s glam, and culty freakdom for a few years now. Despite personnel changes and the ups and downs of keeping a band up and running over their tenure, the core of Derek Mauger and Ben Carr have remained true and steadfast to delivering the HGD message of love and rock n’ roll.
The sound of HGD has evolved and gotten more all-encompassing since the beginning. Their last full-length album, 2016’s Rubber Nun, seems like a lifetime from their newest and best album to date, the sly and slinky Slab City.
This new 9-track long player sees Mauger and Carr putting HGD’s best foot forward. The album is the loosest and most fun the band has put to tape.
One of the absolute highlights on an album full of them is the trippy and driving “Fear Happy.” With an almost motorik beat, the song feels like a dusk drive through the desert. This is the place I always hoped to see and hear HGD work toward: hazy grooves and attitude for days. It’s like the Stones got hip to La Dusseldorf before they did the Flying Burrito Brothers.
Speaking of the Stones, we’re treated to a lovely country jangle with pedal steel “Black Roses.” Once the piano comes in, the song almost morphs into a Zombies outtake.
“Dream” starts out on a wistful vibe but quickly lets loose the fuzz and drops into something resembling Hit to Death in the Future Head-era Flaming Lips.
The beautiful and head-spinning “Thoughts and Prayers” seems to waver like heat coming off hot asphalt, like Jesus and Mary Chain trying their hand at dream pop. This is also the most open and thoughtful piece of songwriting we’ve heard from HGD. Derek Mauger is speaking to current events, and speaking loud and clear.
Slab City is the culmination of 21/2 years of writing and persevering even when things looked grim for Heaven’s Gateway Drugs. Lucky for us, the band pulled through, as Slab City is their best album yet.