It’s impossible to start a review of True Love Cast Out All Evil without a back story on Roky Erickson himself. Roky started the psychedelic band 13th Floor Elevators in 1965 and some have said that even if he did nothing after their first album, he would have still gone down in history as one of the founders of the psychedelic music that defined that era.
13th Floor Elevators only lasted 3 years before Roky started to lose his mind. Paranoid schizophrenia and massive LSD use finally took their toll on Erickson and when he was arrested for possession of a joint in ’68 it led to many years of incarceration and time spend in and out of insane asylums. In the Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane he underwent electroshock therapy as well as Thorazine treatments.
It the late 80s and early 90s Roky developed an obsession with junk mail. He would send letters to people as well as steal mail. It seems the therapy had not worked on fixing whatever was wrong in his head.
Flash forward to 2010 and Roky has released music to a diminished fan-base and is more famous for his Syd Barrett-like life than any material put out in the past 40 years. In fact, until just recently I could not tell you one song he sang. It took one of my favorite bands, Okkervil River, to open my eyes to this enigma of a man.
Will Sheff started writing on his Facebook page about his work on Roky‘s latest release. Throughout the process of recording this album, Will kept us in the loop. Okkervil River is not only Roky‘s backing band for this album, but it seems Will had a big part in almost every aspect of this album. Guiding Erickson in creating something that will be not only relevent in today’s world, but is something of a modern masterpiece.
This is Roky‘s return! It’s a stripped down album. Okkervil River give the perfect backdrop to Roky‘s painful story. You can hear the years in his voice. I would almost compare this album to Johnny Cash‘s American series. From the black and white cover to the extremely personal song titles and lyrics. “Electricity hammered me through my head until nothing at all is backward instead” he moans on Ain’t Blues Too Sad before saying goodbye to sweet dreams. This album is heartbreaking…but it’s also uplifting that a man who has been through so much still has an album like this in him. And a miracle that he has the energy to share it with us.