This Can’t Be Today

June 2, 2008 at 5:22 am (Uncategorized)

I think it was my junior year of high school that I heard my first Rain Parade song; the radio station at SIU-Edwardsville played jazz during the day, but on Friday and Saturday nights at 11:00 pm they’d do a show called “Nightwave” overnight and turn things over to hipsters, and from them I heard “What’s She Done To Your Mind” in heavy rotation (seemed as if they played it nearly every show). More importantly, I heard the song “I Look Around”, decided that it had the most brilliant guitar riff I’d ever heard, and did my best to track down a copy of a Rain Parade album.

It wasn’t until I was at Mizzou that I finally found the Rain Parade debut lp, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip (and it wasn’t until a subway ride about 5 years ago that I figured out where they got title from; think about it for a sec, you’ll get it), and through countless KCOU radio shifts I played “I Look Around” and “1 Hour 1/2 Ago” over and over and over, practically wearing out already well-worn grooves in the vinyl. That Rain Parade debut album was a landmark disc, the album that more than any other really put the Paisley in the Paisley Underground. With dark, atmospheric lyrics and arrangements, it seemed a record out of time–an album informed by postpunk, but entirely beholden to the most lysergically drenched music the Sixties ever produced. It is an album that still holds up today, a gorgeous psychedelic swirl that remains every bit as vital as it was when it first hit the record stores in 1983.

Thing is, try as they might, Rain Parade never really managed to release a worthy follow-up to Emergency Third Rail Power Trip. The band started to fall apart before the next record, Explosions In The Glass Palace hit (David Roback left to join his then-girlfriend Kendra Smith in Opal) and that disc was clearly missing….something. They never found what they were missing, and although Rain Parade begat Mazzy Star and Viva Saturn, neither of those latter bands really ever put out anything as artistically satisfying as that first Rain Parade album.

And so I’ll stop yapping about Rain Parade, and instead mention that in 1998, shortly after I moved to Chicago, I saw a terrific band at the Empty Bottle called The Asteroid #4. They were doing a set of amazing, arty psychedelic space rock wonderfulness, and after the set I tracked ’em down and frontman (and Syd Barrett lookalike) Scott Vitt pressed a copy of their debut CD into my hands, insisting I take it for free to listen to. That debut was good, playing up the obvious debt to Barrett-era Floyd to the hilt. The followup album they put out the next year–King Richard’s Collectibleswas even more my cup o’ joe. Abandoning much of the space rock influence, they instead drew on the energy of producer and Lilys frontman Kurt Heasley to write a set of far more immediate, hook-laden song-oriented tunes. The results were stunning, and I remember telling a friend to watch out for the Asteroid #4, because if The Rain Parade were incapable of putting out a worthy successor to Emergency Third Rail, perhaps this Philadelphia band were the group up to the task.

Things got a little side-tracked for The Asteroid #4 after that. The followup to King Richard was a disc called Honeyspot and this time they came out sounding like an entirely different band, embracing the countrified psychedelia of Gram Parsons and The Byrds and sounding like East Coast cousins of The Tyde or Beechwood Sparks. It isn’t a bad album at all–I really rather like it–but I got the feeling that it wasn’t the band doing what they do best, either. They made folks wait a good long time before they signalled a return back to their psychedelic roots with 2006’s Amazing Dream, which was every bit as good as King Richard’s Collectibles.

Which brings us, finally, to 2008, and the first Asteroid Number Four album in ten years not released under the Rainbow Quartz imprint (it’ll be on Brian Jonestown Massacre frontman Anton Newcombe’s label, Committee To Keep Music Evil). The new disc will be called These Flowers of Ours, and I should first mention that the album isn’t due for proper release until later this summer, but for some reason the Committee’s partner site, Apollo Audio is already selling the MP3 version of it. I snagged my copy last week (along with a totally sweet t-shirt) and have been listening to it constantly since. Having given it fair hearing, I’ll say it now: the Asteroid #4 have finally released an album worthy of being called the spiritual successor to Emergency Third Rail Power Trip.

These Flowers Of Ours delivers on every promise, every bit of potential The Asteroid #4 ever tantalized with. Vitt and company pour layered, chiming, effects-laden guitars into a swirling mix of some of the best songs the band has ever come up with. If the brilliant swoon of “Let It Go” and “Flowers Of Ours” dont clue you in that they’ve decided to pick up the challenge gauntlet of Rain Parade’s debut, then the spot-on cover of “I Look Around” surely will.

And then there are tracks like the stunning “She’s All I Need” that starts with a majestic guitar riff, then eases off the accelerator for just a bit, before bringing back that riff with a vengeance halfway through the sprawl of the song on a searing bridge solo that takes the whole thing right over the falls. There’s the walk-up-the-scale guitar and bass riff that comes bounding into the chorus of the dark “Hold On” (which neatly nicks “Sympathy For The Devil” on the verses) and gives the whole song a killer hook that won’t leave your brain for weeks.

More than any other album in The Asteroid #4’s catalog, These Flowers Of Ours is an epic album that sounds as if it was made to organically flow all together at once. The sequencing and production create a glorious ebb and flow to the proceedings to the point that when the plaintive “Empty Like A Child” ends the album in 10 seconds of glorious fading feedback, you’ll want to punch it all back up again.

I’m not sure whether Apollo Audio jumped the gun on releasing digital versions of this, so I don’t want to post advance tracks the band hasn’t made available already on their Myspace Page.

So…

“My Love”

“I Look Around”

…and a word of caution: Apollo Audio will seemingly let you listen to the album in its entirety, but in reality something is horribly wrong with the sound on the preview version. Nothing at all wrong with the mp3 version you can buy, but just avoid the preview, as it’s messed up.

EDIT and UPDATE:

Eric from Apollo Audio writes to mention that he was using some new “great” software that messed up not only the Asteroid #4 disc, but also a host of others. Remembering a few absolutely crapped-up mixes I’ve made when Nero does a massive update, I sympathize completely.

At any rate, it’s all fixed now. You can go listen to the Asteroid #4 disc in all of its magnificent glory just by clicking below!

1 Comment

  1. Rob said,

    Sold! $8 is a good price too. Can’t wait to check it out.I’ve actually had EMERGENCY TRPT back in medium rotation for the last couple months ever since I uploaded it to the Lib. It does hold up remarkably well.

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