Whiskerman have returned with Kingdom Illusion, their most visceral, jarring, incensed, and immediate set of music to date. For the last several years, Whiskerman has been one of the absolute best live bands in the Bay Area — weaving between psych/glam dance floor spectacle and haunting balladry like it was no big deal.

Their latest incarnation is all of these things too — but intensified with razor-sharp clarity. Kingdom Illusion manages to find the band simultaneously more volatile and yet pinpointed than ever. It’s an enthralling combination.

“Rattlesnake,” opens the album with an airy, delicate touch — and things quickly turn on a bombastic dime on “Belly of The Beast.” Yet the centerpiece of the album, “Be Real,” is among frontman Graham Patzner’s finest songwriting yet.

The music video follows Graham as the corruptor of a churchman, placing him somewhere between Dionysus and Beelzebub. And while this extravagant tale of a jeering madcap is a compelling reading of the song, its lyrics also beg the listener for self-examination with such desperate immediacy that it almost feels like an attack on their character.

And that is among the greatest gifts of art: to collide us with our own complacent thoughts and behaviors, to slam us against the walls of our interior and strip us of our assumptions, our pretensions, our self-deception, whatever excess baggage exists within our lives.

“Be real, for once,” he pleads. And over the course of the song, the phrase morphs from a passing suggestion to an indignant command to a sweet something. And by the end of it, have you ever been real? Have I? Who knows.

(photo: Julia Corbett)