Before I took the (literally) three seconds to fact-find on the situation with Baltimore psych-blues rockers The Flying Eyes’ self-titled Trip in Time debut, the fact that the album was split into two parts had me searching for some conceptual or sonic split between them, mining the tracklist for clues and trying to understand what it was about the first five tracks the band would want to call Bad Blood and what about the back half that would lead the four-piece to dub it Winter. It was an exhaustive search. The significance of three out of the five Bad Blood tracks end with the word “Me” in the title grew with each listen. I thought for sure “Red Sheets” (track seven of the total 10) held a clue beneath its retro fuzz riffing. Certainly the peacocks in Kiryk Drewinski’s album art mean something.
But yeah, it’s a compilation of two EPs, one named Bad Blood and one named Winter. Less thrilling than an underlying spiritual union of metaphysical sonics, perhaps, but at least it’s a fucking answer.
Two immediate thoughts when listening to The Flying Eyes opener “Lay with Me,” in order: (1.) alright, that acoustic guitar is pretty cool, and (2.) wow, this guy sounds like Jim Morrison. The “this guy” in question is guitarist/vocalist Will Kelly, whose powerful vocals not only are reminiscent of the spindly “poet” whose work still mesmerizes would-be deep 13 year olds the world over, but also are a good portion of the reason The Flying Eyes pull off their sound. The brazenness of his approach, backed by bassist/vocalist Mac Hewitt on the more compact, atmospheric “Better Things,” is a means of putting the listener precisely where the band wants and a constant that provides a connection between the sundry musical shifts beneath. Almost wistful notes on “Better Things” give way to organ and riff dance hall stomp on the first EP’s title cut — both of which can be attributed to guitarist/organist Adam Bufano — but Kelly’s voice links the two tracks with each other and with the rest of Bad Blood and Winter.
Likewise, the adaptability of percussionist Elias Schutzman, who takes the rhythmic foreground on “Don’t Point Your God at Me,” is an essential component to making the stylistic shifts work. He rocks a straightforward beat where he needs to and adds flourishes and fills with a loose sensibility that adds to the early psychedelic feel of the band. Even on the subtle, more melodic EP closers “She Comes to Me” and “King of Nowhere” from Winter, Schutzman knows where to position himself to enhance the mood just so. As Bad Blood shifts into Winter with the more guitar-led “We are Not Alive,” his free arms give a seamless feeling to the change. So much so that it might lead one to wonder — if one didn’t know about the whole two-EPs thing — why the hell The Flying Eyes had divided up the record in the first place.
If there is a difference to be found between the two complementing parts of The Flying Eyes’ The Flying Eyes, it’s that on Winter, the band seems less apprehensive to embrace their heavier side. Both “We are Not Alive” and “Red Sheets” seem well armed to take on stoner rock convention while not forsaking the added quirks and intricacies that made the Bad Blood stand out. If anything, the blues of “Better Things” and “Bad Blood” is only enhanced on “Red Sheets,” and when “Around the Bend” steps back from the livelier feel for a moment of ‘60s western transfixion, the changes that came before and Kelly’s vocals make it just another turn The Flying Eyes are taking. One of many.
Winter’s title track is a bass heavy freakout, rich in its tones and meandering without getting lost as so much of this record expertly does, and the mellow send-off “King of Nowhere” provides one last chance to get lost in The Flying Eyes’ expansive feel, (presumably) Hewitt taking the lead vocally and adding a late-‘80s alternative vibe to the gentle organ melody. The Flying Eyes eases itself closed and although maybe you don’t realize it the first couple times through, what gradually dawns on you through repeat listens is the full span of the journey on which you’ve just been taken. Most bands start in reality and go from there; The Flying Eyes kick off in an alternate dimension. Everything is fluid, everything is radiating. I don’t know what to say other than “highly recommended.”Baltimore, Maryland, The Flying Eyes, Trip in Time