1968, from Cheshire, UK, are unashamed in their reverence for the classic psychedelic hard rock that hails from the period their name alludes to. They play “loud, heavy, psychedelic stoner rock that swings,” according to the press release. This is a style that has been done and done again so often that its impact can sometimes be reduced. A band working in this style need to do it incredibly well or to rework it in some way if they hope to stick out and really be noticed. After all, this sort of music has now been in existence for more than half a century. With this in mind, I was pleased to see that, whilst 1968 are indeed very influenced by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath, they also talk about bands such as Soundgarden as well, suggesting that they are presenting us with a bit of a fusion instead of merely a 60s throwback.
Salvation, If You Need… is 1968’s second album. Recorded in 2020 during the ongoing COVID-19 situation, the album’s title is a reference to the “salvation” from the pandemic that the band felt they achieved when they went to the recording studio. The record was produced by Simon Jones (ex-The Verve) and James Smith, and the band recorded the music “live” as a full band, rather than overdubbing each instrument one at a time.
The music itself certainly has a live feel. The record is full of energetic, groovy hard rock. There are some nice riffs here which will have 60s / 70s rock aficionados salivating. 1968 have clearly also listened to music created beyond that era, with some sections recalling 90s alt-rock / stoner bands. The vocals are nearly universally brilliant – a rough, bluesy, soulful growl reminiscent of John Garcia. There is a cover here of Budgie’s “Guts” which fits in absolutely seamlessly with the other material – a testament to the fact that 1968’s material stands up against that of the classic hard rock bands.
There is also a bit of variation to the sound, with some tracks being more skewed towards “classic” rock and others more doom metal-influenced. Grunge-esque vocal harmonies, interesting guitar effects and angular garage rock riffs all make appearances at different times; each track does something which separates it from the others. The record flows through a few different moods, but they all tesselate neatly and cohesively. 1968 definitely have a “sound,” but they also don’t get stuck within its limitations.
Salvation, If You Need… does suffer from a slightly muddy and inconsistent production quality. Some songs are mastered to be louder than others, the drums often sound too dull and boxy, and the guitars are not as crisp, clear, or cutting as they could be. Occasionally the harmonised or doubled vocals miss the mark a bit, and could have perhaps done with being re-recorded. Whilst these flaws are by no means horrendous, they do stack together to slightly take away from the listening experience. Added to that, 1968 very much read from rather than re-write the “psychedelic heavy rock” rule book. That’s not to say that Salvation, If You Need… isn’t a decent album or that it is completely derivative, but it falls short of being truly innovative or exceptional.
Having said all that, 1968 probably don’t want to re-write any rule books anyway. This record will certainly hold appeal for fans of those classic 60s and 70s bands and for fans of groups such as Kyuss, Witchcraft and Clutch, and I imagine that that’s what 1968 are going for. If groovy riffs, bluesy vocals and wailing wah-wah guitar solos are your thing, you could do a lot worse than to check out Salvation, If You Need…
Salvation, If You Need… is out now via No Profit Recordings on vinyl and as a digital download. Order vinyl here: https://noprofitrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/salvation-if-you-need-2