Saturday, April 11, 2009

Volcano Suns' "All-Night Lotus Party": Music Review

The second LP, reissued with lots of bonus tracks, remastered by cohort Bob Weston, sounds great. The songs, less tightly wound than drummer Peter Prescott's Mission of Burma, amble and wander. This shambolic quality detracts from the intensity of MoB, but it may be more accessible for today's eclectic listeners. Like MoB, Volcano Suns prefer to pummel you. Unlike MoB, they kept a sense of humor!

This sounds as if, being a Boston band, frat party music-- if played at MIT or Harvard. Mercury rather than MoB's mica is sung about, but also the properties of dead-end burgs, yuppification, and lost love. The liner notes adapt the opening "Call Me Ishmael" from "Moby Dick" to express their New England heritage wittily. The generous amount of added tracks show the band's range in taste, if not sound. The songs do tend to run together, and it's more an album of a jittery, askew mood than a showcase of intricate melody and textured variety. The best track on the entire re-issue: The Amboy Dukes' "Journey to the Center of the Mind," but as its vocals are barely audible, it took me a while to identify that psychedelic classic's riff as the spine of the remake. The Beatles' "Polythene Pam" suffers by being merely bellowed, and this type of one-off, first-take delivery also lessens the impact of many of the original band's tunes here. I have to say the punky vocals, recalling for me Jello Biafra, don't wear as well as the sonic attitudes here.

The band tends to hit on superb guitar chords, as in the first two songs, "White Elephant" and "Cans," but these last only seconds before the songs go back to the churning, but dissolute, attitude that the album prefers. It's laid-back as much as it's direct, and the louder volume still makes the tracks feel improvised and as loose as those at a frat party. This shifting style, continued in Prescott's next band Kustomized, does link the Volcano Suns to the kinds of bands popular on Homestead Records in the early 80s, when a Midwestern, tuneful, yet humbler college indie rock continued post-punk into a combination with poppier tones and a more friendly appeal.

Still, any selection that features "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" among its offerings, along with a not-bad "Sounds Like Bucks" in both studio and live versions, and which ends with a long 2009-titled song that seems to consist of a storm re-enacted for fifteen minutes on tape {Update: J. Weigand of said band kindly noted on this blog that it's the opening salvo of "Desert Storm."} does show the group's still eager to mix the experimental with the silly. Not many smart bands do so, and the blend of sly fun and restless energy that made Volcano Suns a leading example of what used to distinguish college rock for the post-punk generation should find many happy to find this, and its companion, the début "Bright Orange Years," finally on CD.

(Posted 4-11-09 to Amazon US)


Anonymous said...

Fion...the thing at the end of Lotus Cd is opening of gulf war segued into a bird recording, Best regards, Bobby Sands Jr.

Anonymous said...

By the way...really interesting peice and like the blog quite a bit...never thought we would be reviewed within such a spectrum...nice stuff...J Weigand i.e. B.S. Jr.

Fionnchú said...

Thanks, Mr. Weigand! I liked the prescient cover art too-- another geopolitical commentary akin to the true meaning you reveal of "Desert Storm"? Reagan, Gorbachev, Hitler melting away into samsara at the lotus party? Cheers to you and the band!