San Francisco is one of those cities synonymous with a genre of music – psychedelia – but it’s what came afterwards that has always interested me more, when gentle people no longer wore flowers in their hair, having decided that grit was good; The Flamin’ Groovies, Tubes, Avengers and Dead Kennedys being just some of the acts from the Bay Area that found their way into my record collection as a teenager.
More recently I’ve been enjoying A Weird Exits, the new album from Thee Oh Sees and my current playlist has had Cool Ghouls’ Animal Races on heavy rotation ever since I penned an introduction to the band for this month’s Shindig magazine – available in yer local WH Smith and bucking recent publishing trends by upping the number of issues published each year.
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Animal Races is a collection of tracks that often bring to mind the flower power heyday of their hometown but while singer/guitarist Ryan Wong told me they’ve been listening to a lot of Pigpen-era Grateful Dead recently, they’re just as likely to listen to something very different, bebop pioneer Max Roach being one of their current faves.
Inevitably, a little of this jazz influence has seeped into the band’s latest music and they also regularly display a distinct Flying Burrito Brothers influence too.
There’s some top-flight tracks here, Spectator comes across like an American Stone Roses, The Man and When You’re Gone are heartbreaking country rock numbers; best of all is Material Love, a great slice of hook-laden pop with the highly unusual subject matter of Jung’s theories of self-actualization. Or so I’m told.
Brimming with jangling guitars and dreamy harmonies, this is Sundial:
Cool Ghouls are coming to Britain shortly, where they are going to play six dates, the potential highlight being a performance at Liverpool’s International Festival of Psychedelia on 23.09.16.
Stereogram is as near a guarantee of quality as it is possible to get on a small Scottish independent label. So far they’ve released music by For Malcontents Only favourites Lola in Slacks, the rejuvenated James King and The Lonewolves and The Cathode Ray, three acts that have all made recent appearances in my end of the year best of lists.
This impressive roster has recently been bolstered by two highly tipped new acts, Those Unfortunates – a London band I intend to feature in the coming weeks – and The Eastern Swell, an Edinburgh based four-piece consisting of Chris Reeve, Lainie Urquhart, Neil Collman and Andy Glover – whose debut album, a selection of songs about love and loss called One Day, a Flood is just about to be released.
Like Cool Ghouls, there’s an element of psych in the sound of The Eastern Swell, although on the spectrum of that genre, they veer much closer to the pastoral folk end of the scale rather than to the classic California variety.
Run Down Country Palace, which is perhaps their finest song, reminds me of Espers at times, as does 1000 Yard Stare, while on Temples, they stray into Shelagh McDonald territory with Lainie Urquhart’s fragile vocals sounding exquisite.
Traces of West Coast America are, though, discernible in a couple of their songs; What’s Done is Done and Too Little, Too Late both incorporating that laid back mid ’70s LA feel, best epitomised by Fleetwood Mac.
Admirably, The Eastern Swell aren’t scared to throw a real touch of unpredictability into the equation though, and this comes here in the shape of Dancing Zombie Blues, a frenetic sub-three minute blast that somehow resembles Eugene Reynolds of The Rezillos covering The Living End by The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Appropriately enough for an album that often seems infused with a real autumnal feel, One Day, a Flood is out tomorrow, just as leaves are starting to fall (my birthday too incidentally but don’t feel you have to bombard me with lavish presents, folks). It will be available on CD or as a download.
A single, Rattling Bones, is already out and The Eastern Swell launch the album at Edinburgh’s Voodoo Rooms on Sunday 18th September with support coming from Candythief.
Penned by guitarist/vocalist Chris Reeve and with string arrangements by producer Pete Harvey, this is Rattling Bones:
For more on The Eastern Swell: