It’s the acid-bath howl (equal parts sulfuric and lysergic) of Roky Erickson that dominates You’re Gonna Miss Me, the soundtrack to the 2007 documentary of the same name. More than the mind-twisting, Herculean LSD binges of the 1960s or the synapse-collapsing, Sisyphean electro convulsive “therapies” of the 1970s, more than the bizarre horror-movie themes that permeate his lyrics, or the lazy, tired mythos-making comparisons (which I’m about to make) to the also mentally disturbed Syd Barrett and Daniel Johnston, it is Erickson’s voice that haunts the disc. His voice reflects all of the above while containing so much more — a caterwauling ferocity and emotive depth that deny such categorical trappings. Imagine hearing the vocals of Them-era Van Morrison having gone over (or under) the Edge that so blackly informed later works like Astral Weeks and Veedon Fleece, then baking for two decades in the white-sun heat of the Texas desert, and you’re hearing Erickson.
That’s the all-encompassing sound that swallows You’re Gonna Miss Me with such glottal fury. Officially a soundtrack, the comp is an attempt at distilling Erickson’s forty years of sideways, barn-burning psychosis-rock into twelve representative tracks — a standalone sampler, according to the liner notes. Although it does trace the entire arc of time from his searing, seminal work with the 13th Floor Elevators in the sixties to his early-eighties stint with the Aliens up to his late-period acoustic mini-masterworks, in its brevity it’s more than a little scattershot. That may sync up thematically with the album’s (and the film’s) subject, but it keeps the disc from being a truly comprehensive study of Erickson’s work.
Only two songs are featured from his 1965-68 stint as the Elevators’ frontman — the cavernous, sweaty wail of “Fire Engine” and the swinging, surging garage shrieks of the pitch-perfect and immortal title track — leaving behind four albums’ worth of monstrous psychedelia and burbling, jug-band percussion. The remaining ten songs are split evenly between Erickson’s early-eighties work with the Aliens and his solo acoustic recordings of the nineties. The Aliens songs, while good, play a bit like ZZ Top with teeth — catchy, Southern riff rock like the throat-torn “Two-Headed Dog” or the jangly pop of “Mine, Mine, Mind.” It’s not much more than a defanged 13th Floor Elevators: slicker and assured, but missing the sense of danger that alternately lurked and raged in the early work. It’s only in the newer, intimate acoustic songs that Erickson recaptures the intensity of the Elevators’ output, albeit in a quiet, more mature fashion. The beautiful “For You (I’d Do Anything)” or the chilling, heartsick “Goodbye Sweet Dreams” reveal, with startlingly simple yet gifted songcraft, the haunted fractures and dark rooms of his psyche just as much as the rollicking, deep-fried electric rockers exemplify his energy and humanity.
The soundtrack’s thin song selection prevents You’re Gonna Miss Me from being a definitive portrait of one of rock’s more interesting peripheral (but still groundbreaking) figures, but it does succeed in capturing Erickson’s voice — the sound of a man traveling deep within his own darkness and reporting back with music that is both raggedly alive and quietly staggering — with haunting precision.