Dark are a bygone band from a bygone but very beloved era. Their psych-rock is represented here by eleven songs—by two different lineups—that predate their 1972 album Teenage Angst. The only common element is guitarist-vocalist Steve Giles. The first five tracks were recorded in 1971 by the trio of Giles, bassist Carl Bush, and drummer C. Thornycroft. The last six tracks are from 1969, and probably sequenced this way due to the shabby quality of those recordings. The ’69 cuts were recorded by Giles and a different backup unit: organist Martin Moloney, bassist Bruce Duncan, and drummer Charlie Hiams.
Even for 1971, the first quintet of tracks sounds dark, gloomy, muddy. This characteristic makes the band sound a few years too late, but they were working on a style they’d no doubt embarked upon, years earlier. Cream, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, etc. You don’t have to dig too far to discern this band’s influences. Steve Giles’ voice even has that inoffensive, suspiciously Claptonesque ring to it, circa Eric’s Cream days. “In The Sky,” “Wasting Your Time,” and “Could Have Sworn” are built upon loose “jammy” structures, fuzz-drenched guitar, and leaden basslines—a very familiar formula. “Maypole” kicks things up a notch with a melodic bass lead, plodding cadence and a cool wah~fuzz guitar solo.
The next pair of tunes (from 1969) downplays the intensity of the first five, rooted by Martin Moloney’s velvety organ tone. “All Through The Night” immediately requires a slight volume raise, and—what is that that emanates from the right speaker? A single repeating hand clap, hard-panned and louder than the snare drum. Annoying, but it’s only a three-minute song. “I’m Not Sad” suddenly—laughably—grows louder around the 5:30 mark, as though somebody’s finger slipped up on the volume slider. An earlier, forgettable version of the first half’s best song, “Maypole,” appears here with a slacker, undermixed guitar solo, and an obnoxious fadeout at the middle, akin to experiencing a space-time warp. Bowl haircuts whip themselves into a collective frenzy with the unproduced acid rock jam, “Bad Taste,” (also anointed with a theremin-charged ending). “Grey Man” and “Cloud Of Unknowing” round out the set, and are barely listenable due to the lowest of production values, complete with dropouts, incomprehensible vocals, teetering signal limits, and all that nonsense. This kind of rawness is testament to the fact that Dark is more interesting as a piece of nostalgia than as a reputable cult psychedelic band.