The music industry can be a desolate wasteland. Aging rockstars huddle together around dubious collaborations, trying to stay warm while the scene around them radiates with innovation, but few albums have offered a greater rehabilitation than True Love Cast Out All Evil.
Through violent drug addiction, schizophrenia, and a lobotomy, Roky’s brilliance has been tragically suppressed. However, his family have persisted, capturing moments of fleeting beauty and excitement when they could convince Roky to play, and eventually brought him back from a colourless list of life-threatening vices.
During the worst period of Roky Erikson’s mental illness he was a regular heroin user; played white noise from his radio at full volume; legally declared himself an alien and contracted such horrific dental ulcers that they nearly killed him. He was arrested and lobotomized by the Texas state police force in 1969 for the possession of one joint.
The album opens and closes with distant scratched lullabies, original tape-recording’s Roky’s mother took during a period of self-prescribed detainment in his own home. However, the re-recorded tracks, handpicked by Will Sheff of Okkervil River, serve as signposts to the creativity which characterized Erikson’s career. His vocals range from a timid whimper into bold melodies (on tracks like ‘Forever’ and ‘Be and Bring me Home’) and occasionally aggressive thunders (‘Goodbye Sweet Dreams’), but they never lack dignity.
Sheets of reverberating guitars and warm string sections turn Roky’s raw emotional lyrics into euphoric sentiments which, whilst attacking legal and medical institutions, honour the value of family, community, love and music. The title track ‘True Love…’ emerging from the boisterous ‘John Lawman’ most resonantly demonstrates this. It is, of course, important not to underestimate Okkervil River’s ability to craft something which is both beautiful and potent but this is all about Roky finally getting what he fully deserved to have a long time ago.