Monday, May 19, 2008

Review: The Black Hollies "Casting Shadows"

This is a review I wrote for KRUX 91.5 FM a few months back when I worked at the station. I'm going to give myself permission to use it. It may not be the best written review, but I am learning. Give me a break!

The album cover says it all. The Black Hollies have an even more dream-like psychedelic sound on their second album, the follow up to 2006’s “Crimson Reflections.” Drenched in reverberating vocals, shimmering guitar and trippy lyrics, the Black Hollies seem out of place with today’s music, but in a good way.

Starting off "Casting Shadows," “Whispers Beneath the Willows” sounds like something off a Pretty Things record. The fuzz guitars and general moody nature of the opening track gives way to the groovy “Paisley Pattern Ground.” One can see the go-go dancers doing their thing. And seeing the Black Hollies play it at SXSW, I can vouch for the dancability of the song (seeing girls do go-go dancer moves is never a bad thing). While these two tracks make up the strongest part of the record, the rest are not too shabby either. "The Autumn Chateau," with its waltz feel and sitar, is another highlight and a change of pace which helps move the record along. "Hamilton Park Ballerina" and "Bruised Tangerines" bring 60's psychedelia into the 21st century. Meanwhile, “That Little Girl” is the prototypical 60’s song about girls. Its fun and poppy with a nice guitar solo and minimal lyrics. While the song is not the most innovative or complex, it is a good rave up which leads to another similar rave up, sing along dance song, “If You Won’t Let Go.”Rounding out the Trip through the mind is “Patient Sparrow” whose melody sounds identical to “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor” by The Yardbirds. And like the Yardbirds’ song, the Black Hollies’ has the child-like nursery rhyme characteristics of the counting game the Yardbirds’ took their lyrics came from. If you are a fan of garage rock or psychedelic music, you will like this record. While it certainly hearkens back to the sixties, it is interesting enough to not sound pathetically nostalgic.

Overall, the record is very good. Seemingly experts on all the best aspects of psychedelic-pop music, they meld everything together into a record that would make The Blues Magoos or The Beatles proud. The harmonies force you to sing along, not that you will mind. The rhythms will entice you to dance. And the songs all blend into each other so you will not have a moment without music. How cool is that? In a few years, when Rhino Records gets around to doing a Nuggets box set from this generation in psychedelic/garage music, you can be sure to find these guys on it. If you get the chance to see the Black Hollies live, I would encourage you to go, go, go-go dance. They were my favorite act at SXSW this year, enough so that I made it a point to see them twice.

Other Cool Stuff to Check Out:

S.F. Sorrow by The Pretty Things (1969): One of the first concept albums, really freaky sounds and just a unique, weird trip. A bizarro Sgt. Pepper’s.

Clairvoyance by Screaming Trees (1986): Think the Doors at their strangest doing punk rock.

Psychedelic Sunrise by The Chesterfield Kings (2007): The Chesterfield Kings, today, make the psychedelic music the Rolling Stones should have made in the 60's.

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