By: Dennis Cook
Painted in rainbows and ocean waves, Beauty and the Beast (4 Zero) is a willfully bedazzled tumble through bright '60s acid rock, bucolic '70s heat waves and one of the first worthwhile updates of unadulterated, melodic psych since the '80s Paisley Underground. For a band that's frequently been dark and intense in the past, mining ore from Krautrock and heavy space music, this comes as a happy surprise. The stare-at-it-for-ages, flower power artwork of Santa Cruz's beautifully gnarled Stacie Willoughby is the invitation to the bottled sunshine inside.
Even when the words are world weary, there's lift in the music. Singer-multi-instrumentalist Fred Laird calls this "a farewell to our more obvious space rock leanings, instead we have drun deep from the well of visionaries such as Syd Barrett, Todd Rundgren, Kevin Ayers and John Cale. Not to mention our increasing obsession with the seven classic Utopian albums that the Moody Blues created from '67-72." That they wrestle a wriggling approximation of their lofty influences armed only with their trusty 24-track porta-studio, "hell-bent on recording in every warehouse, kitchen and toilet," is extra impressive. Like the lip-smacking painting of a reclining, curvaceous Aquarian queen in a mini-dress inside, there is much that's resplendent and sensual about Beauty and the Beast (which makes a dandy, if irregular, alternate soundtrack to Jean Cocteau's 1946 film of the same name, especially when combined with a water pipe, apple flavored tobacco and voluminous floor pillows).
By the time you arrive at the lush, swirling final stretch of "Valerie A Tyden Divu," "A Playground Mystery" and a hidden track that could be lost Boards of Canada gold, Earthling Society has you in their tender fist. See, they wave a freak flag as well as anyone but they've got some bite, too. Guitars groan and all the black goo they've swam through to get to this stage still clings to the rocks along their coastline. It's that melancholy algae that gives these bright waters such a coppery glow. There is the tang of reality here, ache wrapped in echo and reverb, but there just the same. It's a lovely album, really. What more need be said?
JamBase | Smoothed By Long Fingers
Go See Live Music!