Friday, February 6, 2009

The Pillbugs -- Everybody Wants a Way Out

The Pillbugs -- Everybody Wants A Way Out (Rainbow Quartz)

Hey, hey they’re The Pillbugs! They’re too busy writing ‘60s songs for the 21st century to put anybody down. Indeed, it’s amazing how this Ohio psych-pop band finds new wrinkles in those classic old songs.

I found this album to be a bit less striking than the two-disc Buzz For Aldrin. It’s really just a matter of degree. After a few spins, I’m pleased to say that there are plenty of songs here that, like so many other Pillbugs tracks, will stand the test of timelessness.

The song that I immediately took to was “Soundman”, a witty track that anyone who’s been in a band will really appreciate. With a little fuzz and a bit more jangle and a track that falls somewhere in the realm of The Beatles and The Move around 1967, the ‘bugs endear themselves to every dude manning the soundboards at clubs throughout the world: “For the next half hour you’re the hand of God.” It’s hard to pick out the most clever couplet, with so much to choose from, but I love how they come out of each chorus by calling out more instruments: “Guitar 1 (lead guitar plays) and drums. More drums.” If Flight Of The Conchords did a cover, this would be a good song for them to tackle.

The title of “Tragedy Anne” is amusing enough. But the song is grounded on something being run backwards, which effectively provides the rhythm track, while the guitars and keyboards add quasi-symphonic touches. This puppy just sounds really cool. But it’s not just the sonics, as main ‘bug Mark Mikel spins out some whimsical and winning melodies.

Moreover, The Pillbugs hit all sorts of different sounds, even when restricted to only a single disc. “Can’t Get It Right (So I’m Loving It Wrong)” is a languid, liquid tune that evokes Jeff Lynne and the Bee Gees, without sounding like a rewrite. And I don’t know if either of those artists would come up with a line like “Getting hungry always spoils my appetite.” That actually makes sense to me.

On “Hard Line”, the band traverses dramatic psych-rock territory. This is a tougher rock number with stinging lead guitar lines and an ominous melody. The composition is strong and the arrangement really brings that out. From the rock solid bass playing to all the various instrumental colors, this is top flight psychedelia.

In fact, while writing this review, I wonder why I wasn’t hit more immediately by the high quality of this record. I should never take the excellence of The Pillbugs for granted. They are one of the few bands where I think you can jump in with any album and, if you like great psychedelic music, you’ll become a convert.

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