Okay, everyone, you know the tune, so sing along: When you say Wis-con-sin -- you said psychedelia!
Doesn't quite seem to work, does it? The recorded evidence by Badger State bands during the 1960s largely bears that supposition out. There's tons of local band 45s and a few albums last few years of the decade, but rarely does the music head in spacey directions.
A notable exception, though, was The Baroques, from Milwaukee. Their lone, self-titled album from 1967 is somewhat of an anomaly when compared to many of the era's more famous psychedelic touchstones; there's nothing specifically mystical in the lyrics, or any coded drug references, or epic extended jams.
Band members Jay Borkenhagen and Rick Bieniewski made a point of stating in the album's self-penned liner notes that psychedelia wasn't their aim, which makes sense when considering the music, often a left of center vision of pop songs rather than true psych. The fact that many now-dated musical and cultural references are missing helps give many of the songs an out-of-time quality not shared by many contemporary acts.
Their lone release is also notable for being released by Chicago R&B titan Chess Records. At the time Chess was looking for a way to break back into the rock market, a place they'd been largely absent from since The Beatles changed the rules of the game a few years before. It would end up being one of only a couple post-Fab Four rock albums on Chess, which soon set up spinoff label Cadet Concept for their mostly unsuccessful attempts to make the rock charts.
According to drummer Dean Nimmer (in Gary Myers Wisconsin rock history Do You Hear that Beat), the label at one point attempted to add vocalist Minnie Riperton to the band. Riperton would soon end up with another quickly recruited, and apparently more pliable Chicago band, as part of Cadet Concept's psych/soul hybrid Rotary Connection; that band would be the label's biggest success in the heavy rock field.
So, The Baroques were not exactly a psych band, and from Wisconsin, and had their album released by a label more familiar at the time with marketing R&B... it's easy to guess why the album didn't zoom to the top of the charts. Though it sold fairly well regionally at the time, today it's rare enough that I haven't been able to replace my whipped and crud-covered copy recovered from being stuck to the back of another LP (if anyone has a spare, let me know!).
It's a shame The Baroques isn't better known outside the world of psych collectors, who generally only give it so-so ratings due in part to its poppiness. It's one of the more unique sounding garage-era albums, featuring an unconventional mix of mopiness and wackiness, hard-edged guitar and subtle harpsichord, droniness and catchiness. Two of the highlights were paired as the album's only single: the improbably-titled "Iowa, a Girl's Name," with a fierce solo breakdown; and "Mary Jane," which gained the band notoriety due to an unfortunate radio ban by programmers fearful of possible drug references. Then, there are freakouts like the Mothers of Invention-esque "This Song Needs No Introduction" and the "Musical Tribute to the Oscar Mayer Wiener Wagon," a much better song than the title would imply.
The easiest way to track some of this material down is via a not-exactly-bootleg CD compilation, "Purple Day," put together with some band members' help . I've also seen a very expensive import LP, likely of dubious legality, floating around in the marketplace recently as well. The CD includes much of the album but also mutes its eclecticism, dropping two of the wackier numbers and the meditative "In Silver Light." As a good trade-off, however, it includes their self-released post-Chess single and an album's worth of unreleased tracks from the time. (Chess 1967)