Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Jeremy Messersmith – The Reluctant Graveyard

Jeremy Messersmith’s third album of smart indie pop continues in the same vein he mined on his first two. This one plays down the death fixation in favor of an upbeat, wistfully tuneful 60s psychedelic pop feel. But unlike the rest of the slavish Beach Boys and Ellliot Smith imitators, Messersmith has established a voice of his own: there’s a depth and a thoughtfulness to his lyrics and a subtly clever wit throughout the tunes and the arrangements, an indication of how successfully he’s immersed himself in intelligent oldschool pop sounds.

The first song here is something of a cross between late 60s English dancehall-style Kinks and Elliott Smith, with some absolutely gorgeous piano/guitar textures on the chorus. The second track, Dillinger Eyes is Badfinger-esque powerpop, followed by the album’s best song, Organ Donor. With a dark, reggae-inflected Watching the Detectives vibe enhanced by brooding strings, it’s a vividly metaphorical look at how we fall apart: “Took my brain to the seminary, never seen again…left my spine at the wedding chapel…” John the Determinist works off a bracing, tense string arrangement that underscores the narrator’s obliviously stubborn OCD vibe. Knots blends an old PiL guitar riff with a string section straight out of the Moody Blues circa 1967, a feel that returns with the mellotron-driven sympathy-for-the-devil ballad Repo Man, all sad and alone since nobody cares that he’s dead and gone. The funniest track here is the lushly jangly Rickenbacker guitar anthem Deathbed Salesman, its protagonist trying to upscale a potential casket buyer:

You’ve got a reservation
But you don’t have to wait if you don’t want to
You won’t feel a thing
All your friends are there already
This is how it has to end…

Fans of the original stuff as well as 60s revivalists like the Essex Green and Love Camp 7 will love this. Jeremy Messersmith plays Joe’s Pub on May 28 at 7 PM. Memo to Messersmith’s publicist; email this anonymously to pitchfork and tell them it’s the long lost Beach Boys album. They won’t be able to tell the difference.

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May 13, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Love Camp 7 – Sometimes Always Never

Their great shining moment. There will assuredly be others, considering how good the unreleased material that they’ve been playing live has been, but this is Love Camp 7’s best album to date. It’s a triumph of soaring harmonies, catchy hooks and general fearlessness for these authentic 60s psychedelic throwbacks. Rich with catchy melodies, steeped in history, the album gets better with repeated listenings, in the spirit of great psychedelic, garage and art-rock bands from the Pretty Things, to Nektar, to the Kinks.

The album opens on an apt note, with some found footage from the studio.“I can’t really…can’t really hear myself at all. Am I even in the mix, man?” demands a mystified Dave Campbell (an Elvin Jones devotee and one of the two or three best rock drummers of this era). Then the band launches into the opening tune, Connecticut, a jangly, harmony-driven tribute to the 1999 NCAA champion Connecticut Huskies basketball team: “driving past the mighty Eldon Brand.” Connecticut was frontman/guitarist Dann Baker’s alma mater. “Did I ever think I’d look back fondly? No, not really,” he muses.

The next cut is about Baker’s cat Munoz: “The universe is magical!” he purrs. But then he gets lost in Chinatown, and there’s a forlorn wah-wah driven passage straight out of the Pretty Things’ SF Sorrow, into a short, squalling free jazz breakdown, back into the intoxicatingly catchy chorus. After that, there’s the brief Naming Names, punky with slide guitar, a rogues’ gallery of some of the friendly witnesses and those who sold out their colleagues before Joe McCarthy’s infamous House Un-American Activities Committee.

The following three cuts are a trilogy, a look back at corruption in the southern California irrigation system in the 1920s and 30s, and its disastrous results. The first part, Once Upon a Time Our Valley Was Green features an achingly beautiful hook coming out of the chorus. Love Camp 7 have so many hooks they use them judiciously: other bands would have started out the song with that descending progression and would have hit you with it with every chance they got, but these guys always leave you wanting more: until they clock you upside the head with another one just as good. The trilogy’s focal point, Telephone Girl, with its eerie circus motif mid-song, is a tribute to a brave telephone operator who took it upon herself to call people in the surrounding area after shoddily constructed dam broke and unleashed a landlocked tsunami of water. The cycle concludes with David Gaines, a tribute to a California conservationist and freedom fighter, cast as a retro English dancehall psychedelic number.

Many other good songs on the album. Little Mr. Elephant nicks the intro from Hell’s Bells by AC/DC brilliantly into a bouncy psych/pop number. The Queen of Whale Cay starts out as a bouncy, cheeky march a la something silly off of Village Green and then turns into a gorgeously sunny, jangly tour through one gorgeous permutation after another. The rest of the album chronicles people, most of them everyday Americans in their moment of glory, standing up for their rights. But first, the self-explanatory 39-second Nobody Knows As Much as Phil seems very much to be about legendary/exasperating knowitall jazz dj Phil Schaap. Harvey Weinberg is based on an imaginary character from a 60s camp film, a middleclass dad type trying to hang with the stoners and having a hard time cutting it: the faux-60s bluesy solo toward the end of the song is priceless. Barbara Lee salutes the California congresswoman who was the only person in Congress to vote against giving Bush war powers in the wake of 9/11: “Barbara Lee is having no trouble sleeping.” Jon Strange opens like Rain by the Beatles, a jangling 12-string guitar playing against a wall of distorted chords, with lyrics taken from the transcript of one Jon Strange asking some particularly pointed questions of Madeleine Albright at a town meeting-type event at Ohio State University. Strange’s simple, brutal honesty plays out against a beautifully triumphant, Beatlesque melody. The album closes with The Seeds, which sets some of the liner notes from legendary 60s garage/psych band the Seeds’ first album to a somewhat over-the-top musical treatment complete with long extended guitar jam. It’s hard to tell who’s playing what, Baker or the ubiquitous Steve Antonakos (who’s now apparently a full-fledged member of the band), but redoubtable bass player Bruce Hathaway holds the wheels to the rails.

Love Camp 7’s previous work has occasionally been taken to task for being overly nostalgic, or for having a Beach Boys fetish, and neither neurosis rears its ugly head here, at all. This cd makes a good present for someone who’s into quirky 60s revisionist bands like XTC or the Essex Green, and serves as a welcome antidote to the legions of freak-folk stoners who pretend to be 60s when they’re really just a change of clothes away from James Taylor. Great album. 5 bagels. With nova, Bermuda onion and ripe beefsteak tomato. Love Camp 7 choose their live dates judiciously: they typically play the Parkside on the occasional weekend. The album is available at select independent record stores, online and at shows.

May 11, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments