Joe Stevens is a New York-based singer/songwriter and musician and the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed psych rock project Peel Dream Magazine. Deriving its name from the legendary BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, one of England’s preeminent tastemakers, the band’s name is meant to evoke a certain strain of independent music. “I wanted to create an outlet for subcultural wanderers. Something you can subscribe to,” Stevens explains.
Earlier this year, the New York-based psych pop act released their critically applauded sophomore album Agitprop Alterna, an album which draws from a wide set of post-punk, shoegaze and indie pop influences while possessing a self-assured and unique sound. Building upon the attention and momentum they’ve earned earlier this year, Peel Dream Magazine recently released the Moral Panics EP, a companion effort that features previously unreleased songs from the Agitprop Alterna sessions. Far from outtakes, the EP’s material are songs that can stand on their own — while functioning as a sort of corollary to their sophomore effort.
The EP’s title is derived from Stanley Cohen’s Folk Devils and Moral Panics, a pivotal study of the media treatment of the mod movement and the political, societal and cultural fault lines that the media panic embodied. Unsurprisingly, the EP’s material continues Stevens’ and Peel Dream Magazine’s investigations into those frought and areas where art, culture and commerce meet.
“Verfremdungseffekt,” Moral Panics’ latest single is a fuzzy, half-remembered dream centered around layers of arpeggiated and droning keys, a chugging bass line, shimmering, atmospheric guitars and ethereal vocals — with the end result being a mod-like take on psych rock that superficially sounds as though it could have been released in 1965, 1995, 2015 or — well, yesterday.
Centered around footage of Stevens and Company performing at Chicago’sSleeping Village and Ottawa’s Cinqhole just before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the video is an eerie reminder of the things we all miss and can’t have right now — shows, bars, hanging out and bullshitting with friends.