PLASTIC CACTUS Tues 11/21 Mississippi Studios Clifford King
Plastic Cactus is just about as far removed from the desert as its name suggests. Brooke Metropulos (guitar/vocals), Michaela Gradstein (guitar/vocals), Bill Willson (bass), and Tyler Brown (drums) formed in Portland in 2016 and released their debut EP, Pricks, last April. Despite the group’s Pacific Northwest roots, its music is a collision of surf rock, spaghetti western soundtracks, outlaw country, and the dusty, rockabilly punk of the Gun Club. That’s well-trodden territory by now, but the wry lyrics, too-cool vocals, and tight melodies of Pricks make Plastic Cactus stand out in a sea of lesser bands.
Opening track “Pink Void” sounds dazed, sun-drunk, and hallucinatory, while funereal “Dark and Moody” and “Ghost” feature twangy guitar riffs, skittering percussion, rumbling bass lines, and the Vivian Girls-esque harmonies of Metropulos and Gradstein. The EP’s standout, “Mum’s the Word”—which was included on this year’s PDX Pop Now! compilation—kind of sounds like the Bonanza theme song at first, but its galloping guitar riff melts into psychedelic slime as they sing, “Couldn’t speak, be heard/Keep quiet, ’cause mum’s the word/Don’t say I play well for a girl.”
Pricks is a promising start for Plastic Cactus; it’s catchy, haunting, surreal, and fun. I bet they’d fit right in on bills with bigger surf bands like La Luz and Guantanamo Baywatch. Plastic Cactus is currently working on a full-length debut that’s set to come out in 2018—if they stay prickly, it could be one of the best local releases of next year.