July 29, 2008 at 6:48 am (Uncategorized)

Is there a band out there with an odder, more confusing career arc than that boasted by the Seattle band The Green Pajamas? Check it: they got together in 1984, had a little bit of buzz as a latecomer to the Paisley Underground, and then had their delicate psych-pop sound sort of get crushed by the waves of grunge coming from the Pacific Northwest. A few albums and singles circulated (I became a fan thanks to finding one at KCOU when I was a dj there), but the band seemed to be done by 1990.

Or not. They resurfaced with a new record in 1997, and a handful of stuff between 2000-2002. Nice. 2003 brought the amazing compilation of their best work, an altogether wonderful disc called “Through Glass Colored Roses” that I still listen to in heavy rotation. (Seriously, if you dig paisley pop with a baroque, minor-key beauty, stop reading this and go to Emusic and grab “Glass Colored Roses” and thank me later.) At this point, 20 years after they started, the Green PJ’s got downright freaking prolific. Between compilations of unreleased material, EP’s and albums of new material, and even a few themed, concept albums, it feels as if the band is rewarding loyal fans for years of patience of long waits between discs.

The gift and the curse of The Green Pajamas is that you pretty much know what you’re gonna get with one of their albums–the guitars are gonna jangle, the vocals are going to be gauzy and tuneful and harmony-laden, the lyrics are going to be oblique and occasionally edge into some very odd territory. Fair enough. There’s always a tendency when you hear a band that knows its way around songcraft and has a way with a melody to compare them to classicists of rock and pop from years ago, and so you can try to play “spot the ’60’s influence”, but that won’t get you far. At various times, the Pajamas sound like Fairport Convention (not just for the jangle, but check Eric Lichter’s Richard Thompson meets Dumptruck guitar lines) all electrified, sometimes they have a Byrdsy thing goin’ on…but whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it well.

And so there’s a new Green Pajamas album out. And the thing is, the damn record is great. I’ve been listening to all this “nu-folk”/freakfolk crap for a few months, and frankly, that whole genre is just an abyss of musical refrigerator fingerpaints. Jeff Kelly, Joe Ross, Laura Weller, and Eric Lichter of the Green Pajamas seem to effortlessly do the tuneful, folky, rustic, gorgeous guitar pop thing so well that they’ve rather carved out their own genre.

To steal back a phrase from the movie High Fidelity, I will now sell some copies of various Green Pajamas musics: (iTunes for you luddites who don’t know better, Emusic and Amazon’s download service for those of you who want the real folk blues in DRM-free mp3…)

“Death By Poisoning” (If Billy Corgan ever hears this song, he’ll kill himself. Someone email it to him.)
“Downslide” (Laura Weller takes lead vox on this song; absolutely stunning stuff)
“Lady Of Spain” (From the new disc, no accordions in sight…)
“Sandy” (You wanna know when you’ve found a great band? When they’re confident enough to bury a gem like “Sandy” as the 14th track on a 16-track disc)
“Peppermint Stick” (Little trip down memory lane with this older GP track)

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