Album Review: The Mad Walls – Have You Heard The News? (2024 LP)

Eight years on from their Somewhere Anywhere EP, The Mad Walls return to the psych rock scene with their debut LP Have You Heard the News? out today. Brimming with a signature blend of acid-dipped, soupy psychedelia sanded back and slapped with a lo-fi vintage varnish, there is something old and new, classic and novel about this release. A mesmerizing and often intoxicating blend of hazy heaviness and thumping grooves, the core sound is an amalgamation of Christopher Mercado’s surreal and haunting vocals mixed with whimsical acoustic and electric guitar, groovy drums, and wonderfully trippy basslines.

With strong influences from a wide range of 1960s psychedelia and bands like MC5, Skip Spence, Sonic Youth, Syd Barrett, and Jefferson Airplane, the band has a strong link to the past but doesn’t seem concerned with baiting nostalgia, looking only toward the new. As a result, there is a fair amount of homage but enough originality to ensure that it feels fresh.

“It’s just chatter about life and human feelings. Stylized human expression,” Mercado explains, encapsulating the mind-bending, playful storytelling that The Mad Walls have to offer. And unique it certainly is.

Like a sequel to Blur’s “Song 2” but with more attitude, the bombastic drum introduction of “Who Wants to Die for Religion” opens the album and wastes no time getting us acquainted with what’s ahead. With biting lyricism in lines like “who wants to die for religion, your heroes lie,” there is little room for interpretation as the title suggests.

Coming up second is the title track “Have You Heard the News,” a catchy, trippy, head-nod inducing tune, standing out with its acoustic lead solos throughout. “I Tell You How I Feel” is another foot-tapping earworm. With a groovy eastern-influenced distorted guitar solo at the one-minute mark and a creative vocal performance courtesy of Mercado, this one is a standout. “Cool Tripper” kicks in with a country-like rhythm that’s more Johnny Cash than Brian Jonestown Massacre, shifting from half to double time like audible Play-Doh stretching and reforming into different songs almost at will. The dreamy atmosphere combined with the cowboy feel is a nice change and mixture of genres.

With a bit more of a funk-like feel, “In Your Dream You Are No One” is a breezy, almost surfy 70-second vignette that is over before it begins but leaves its mark. “Seven Days” opens with a Spanish feel mixed with some shimmering electric guitar chords that feel straight out of a James Bond soundtrack with the cinematic scope and feel to accompany. “Hip Comma” is a return to the norm with a fusion of raspy drums, moody vocals, and acoustic guitar that form another hypnotic addition to the runtime.

“Maka the Native” is another genre exploration with heavy eastern stylings, with some trippy storytelling about “Maka” and the land of the teepees. Some creative choices in the vocal breath solos are something to behold, and as a collection of moments, this one is an interesting curiosity. “Television” includes some of the best guitar work on the album, with some flamenco-like guitar work that accompanies a piano that is a welcome inclusion to the tapestry of songs thus far. The vocal production here defines the term “lo-fi,” with a sound akin to a walkie-talkie in a paper cup, yet combined it forms into something pretty cool.

“Electric Parade” and “Clouds of Dust” share about 1:25 of the album’s time, serving up a sort of short, sharp, and strange sonic detour. “There Only Is” contrasts with an upbeat tune that feels like an extended, warped interpretation of Crowded House’s introductory opening instrumental in “Weather With You.”

A super fun ending to the album, the tune “Apples” is a playful closer swimming in the simple glory of twelve-bar blues and mood stabilizer to wash down at the end of an otherwise arduous 16-track journey through the hazy, kaleidoscopic musical journey that is Have You Heard the News?

Overall, the album is a fascinating listen characterized by off-the-wall surprises and a curiosity to pull on the musical thread to see how far it goes. Entirely recorded on tape in lead singer Christopher Mercado’s garage, the release is awash with an audible DIY aesthetic that strips back the production value. This lo-fi soul creates a truly unique listening experience, accentuating the often minimal instrumentation on each track and bringing each element to the forefront.

The album serves as a refreshingly concise example of prioritizing songwriting and craft over large-scale production. The flash and pomp are intentionally absent, and with an average track length of under three minutes, the “get in and get out” nature of the album ensures that each track has something memorable. Despite the short run time, the tunes are still teeming with trippy timbres and moments of inspiration without indulging too much in clichés, maintaining a unique and authentic sound.

However, this uniqueness comes at a cost. The album’s restraint limits the full expression that psychedelic rock typically soars towards. It doesn’t quite reach the late-era Beatles-esque, LSD-tinged epic sound that springs to mind when thinking of psychedelic rock. With such production restrictions, there is a repeating cast of characters in the instrumentation that, with a bit of studio magic, could have been elevated into something larger or more ambitious. That isn’t to say the release isn’t ambitious—it is—but it just doesn’t quite reach the peaks it hints at. When it is good, it’s great. But that can only be sustained for so long before it wears out a bit of its welcome.

The Mad Walls intentionally escape the cheap genre tropes of excess, oversaturation, extended musical sections, and ear-numbing cacophony. Despite this, with a 16-track offering, there is only so much to appreciate before the sounds begin to blend together, leaving you begging for something more. Not quite sure of what that “more” is, you just know you want it.

In essence, The Mad Walls’ debut LP Have You Heard the News? is still an undeniably bold, creative statement. It’s an album that both honors its genre heroes while providing a refreshing, garage-styled take on psychedelic rock that shows promise. An often confusing, hazy, and surprising journey, for psych rock fans it’s a journey well worth taking.


Have You Heard the News? is out today. Grab it HERE