By: Dennis Cook
It takes only a few minutes of cosmically sumptuous opener "Come Ahead Then" to signal you've wandered into something special, but when it collides into the hurdy gurdy skip of "Teenage Gears" – a sweet, windblown romp picked up along the side of Highway 61 – which then deposits us in "Time," the best tune Shuggie Otis never wrote but could have, well, you start to wonder if you've discovered a contemporary answer to the great Moby Grape. San Francisco's The Society Of Rockets is a 10-piece self-described "psych blooze cosmic dirtburst country freakout mf. organic audiopiates" together since 2004, and these kiddies swing with all the fearless, multicolored glory of SF's finest, boundary skirting ancestors.
Their third long player, Our Paths Related (Underpop), is a humdinger that bubbles over with hungry creativity and primal rock 'n' roll fury. From the varied, endlessly passionate lead vocals to the sharp horn charts and hypnotically enveloping keyboards, there's great intelligence here but never so smart as to forget the urges that made them jam in garages in the first place. Paths has the same shuddering modernity as Radiohead's (perhaps justifiably) ballyhooed In Rainbows - particularly on "Walk With Lions" and "Horses of Mars" - but it's a good deal more fun. Paths is an evolutionary step that couldn't have occured without the brightly knotted free flights of the Summer of Love, the horn-y exploration of Blood, Sweat and Tears and, yes, the pointed burrowing of Radiohead's The Bends and OK Computer. Where they differ from Thom Yorke and company is in a good natured spirit that embraces female energies in the layered background vocals, sophisticated brass and a blues ghost that adds ectoplasm to the compact, serrated guitars that admirably recall Johnny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien. As zeitgeist capturing as Radiohead may be they'd never come up with a sunshine mini-epic like "California's Burning," which marries West Coast psych haze to the universal camaraderie of The Youngbloods' "Get Together." That they extend that vibe into a burbling coda, "Loose Change," that seamlessly dribbles into the shifting, trumpet stoked corridors of "Horses of Mars" just adds further weight to their charms.
Our Paths Related has the cumulative effect, especially on repeat listens, to ooze into your crevices in unpredictable ways, filling you up like a fantastic meal and then tucking you in with glitchy lil' pop closer that'd make the Magnetic Fields proud. When you first encounter Paths you won't know where it's going to take you but trust that their drive to please and experiment is sincere and successful enough at every finely crafted turn to keep your ears humming long into the new year. Truly grand stuff.
JamBase | Golden State
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