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STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK
Not long ago, I made the comment that I used to get in fist fights over The Strawberry Alarm Clock. I need to qualify that. I used to almost get in fist fights over these guys. More than once, I got in verbal jousts with complete idiots regarding SAC's musical credibility. It always went something like this: ?I hate Incense and Peppermints! It sucks!? to which I usually replied, ?Oh yeah? Oh yeah?? In my head, I was pounding the guy into a bloody pulp because I was so tired of SAC's entire output of outstanding music being crammed into the almost three-minute life span of Incense and Peppermints. I, unlike those obviously uneducated alcohol-swilling louts, had heard more than that one song--- I had heard them all, and you can pick any stage of their four album stint as Hollywood's poster boys for psychedelia. I had heard them numerous times. They never got old to me. I loved those guys. So when I heard about a reunion project, I was both ecstatic and filled with consternation. I mean, as much as I loved the band, could they even approach the quality of music they had played as mere teens? I seriously doubted it. And what would they even record? Their old stuff? Not always a good idea, though it was what made them popular. New stuff? The Alarm Clock as part of the interchangeable mass? Not a good idea, either. Well, unless they had an incredible handful of songs ready-made for them.
As usual, I worried for no reason. They did both--- covering the old and slipping in a few others--- and they found a balance. For new fans, there are the classic tracks--- Strawberries Mean Love and Barefoot In Baltimore and Tomorrow and a kickass version of Paxton's Back Street Carnival which had me running for my albums to check the tracks, old and new, against one another. In fact, I A/B'd every old track and was amazed at how close they came and yet how far apart they were. There is something about this older and more mature lineup which has that same chutzpah the teen band did but with a more focused approach. Or something. Arrangement-wise, they are as close as they could get, I suppose. I have to laugh. It is so cool to hear the music again, done by virtually the same band but updated.
Yep. The Clock still has it. They prove it right off with an excellent cover of The Seeds' Mr. Farmer, a tribute to Sky Saxon as requested by Saxon's widow. A sort of cross between The Seeds and SAC, the song relies on driving bass and low-keys electric piano, a combination which brings out the garage in the otherwise smooth and harmonied SAC. And it lasts for one track, though they do an extended version of it toward the end of the album. Killer stuff. Then, it's right into that psychedelic dreamscape for whi8ch the guys became known. They toss in a few excellent originals and odd tracks--- the exotic and War-rhythmed World Citizen, as close as I've ever heard any band come to sounding like one of my favorite bands of all time, Gypsy; Drifting Away, a song written by Mark Weitz about the loss of his beloved wife; Charlotte's Remains, a cover of a track by The Fuzztones as requested by Rudi Pertrudi. All outstanding songs, all standing out.
Of course, there are stories behind this release and behind the songs as well. Interesting stories and worth reading. I suggest you head to SAC's website to pick up on them and to check out some videos and other goodies. I guarantee you that this is no snatch and grab attempt at loosening your purse strings. This is, in fact, as legit as you can get. Well thought out, well recorded and well-timed. Perfect for those of us who need that reminder that psych is not all space and phantasmagoria. That sometimes, it is just plain fun. That fun is getting heavy airplay at my house and in my head. Heavy. And far out.
Frank O. Gutch Jr.