Trauma, insanity, and resurrection drive Roky Erickson's first album in 15 years. It's a singular, unsettling, and essential one: Rarely is a rock record so steady a guide to the intersection of spirituality and madness. Backed by Austin band Okkervill River and produced by its guitarist Will Sheff, True Love is an alternately sweet and scary glimpse of a man who has been called the father of psychedelic rock. Its core is "Please, Judge" and "John Lawman," a matched pair of tunes evoking Erickson's commitment to a Texas insane asylum in 1969 for possession of a single joint. The former is beseeching speak-song; the latter is Erickson in full Little Richard mode, railing against murderous authority figures.
The snarl of the menacing "You're Gonna Miss Me" — often called the original punk song — by Erickson's '60s band the 13th Floor Elevators, doesn't dominate True Love, a largely reflective collection of solo Erickson work culled from 40 years of writing in institutions, prisons, and his own homes. There's innocence in the soulful "Forever," the dizzy "Birds'd Crash," and the churchy, yearning "Be and Bring Me Home." There's jangly guitar rock in "Bring Back the Past" (a ringer for Warren Zevon's "Poor Poor Pitiful Me") and the ravishing "Goodbye Sweet Dreams." There's commitment to sanity and kindness in the irradiated "Devotional Number One" (an old recording) and the kindly, commanding title track. Beautifully and lovingly crafted, True Love Cast Out All Evil does far more than modernize a legend. It showcases a distinctive artist who has been through hell and returned to tell the tale. — Wolff