Sunday, April 12, 2009

Volcano Suns' "The Bright Orange Years": Music Review

The first LP, reissued with bonus tracks, continues Mission of Burma's intense, postpunk assault. It eases up, with drummer Peter Prescott, through levity. The liner notes insert the band for "Evel Knievel" as a potted biography! The songs chatter about cornfields, malaise, and lassitude. They combine a subtle intelligence with a good-natured prickliness.

This album, when I heard it on vinyl way back, captured the early-80s college rock scene for me. Listening to it on the Bob Weston-remastered version, it sounds muddier than I remembered. It surely was originally recorded on the cheap, and indie music does belong in the less-than-pristine audiophile category! Yet, compared to the successor, "All-Night Lotus Party," (also reviewed by me) what it lacks in punch it adds in consistency.

Most listeners favor the follow-up VS LP, but for me the début controls the mood a bit better. The tracks do tend towards a churning, shifting, but sonic sameness, a feature also of some MoB and Prescott's later Kustomized. The best song, the third, is an instrumental that strongly recalls MoB; the vocals lack the clarity of the second LP, but as I tend not to find these as the band's strong point, this may not be a drawback. The mix is not as crisp as "Lotus Party," but again this probably can be accounted for by the source and the equipment. Pavement and 90s Matador Records lo-fi fans may find their bands' own inspiration here, by the way! All in all, if you're wanting to hear an accurate record of how alternative, non-mainstream rock sounded in Reagan's first administration, this is a good choice.

I'd been waiting a long time for this on CD. It works today for me as background tone more than foreground music to fill a space. This may have not been the intention of the band when they made it a quarter-century ago, but it does serve to show how a bright bunch of Bostonians can combine the intelligence of MoB with the more shambling, small-town affability that Prescott's lineups have emphasized. And, the addition of many bonus songs, culminating with Prince's then-far-off paean to "1999," does keep the party spirit alive for the more rockin' eggheads and brainiacs.

(Posted to Amazon US yesterday. No Easter tie-in, save possibly the album's title!)

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