Review Summary: Who said psychedelic rock was restricted to the 60s?
There are few genres that are bound as strongly to an era as psychedelic rock to the 60s. After the summer of love passed away and the hippie revolution grew out of their naïve but beautiful ideals, psychedelia became a nostalgic memory and remained one until now. But there have been a few attempts to resurrect the dream-like, lovely atmosphere of that time. In a 80s revival of psychedelic music, simply called neo-psychedelic, Rain Parade took one of the leading positions. Though being part of the “Paisley Underground”, a Los Angeles subgenre including among others The Dream Syndicate and The Bangles, Rain Parade released this debut album in England at first in 1983, where the neo-psychedelia movement was at its strongest. Though receiving good critics and gaining quite a lot of fame within the genre, real success was not to be and after the great EP “Explosions in the Glass Palace”, a live recording and a second LP, Rain Parade disbanded.
Psychedelic music was the genre that dominated the whole second half of the 60s and it was the genre in which rock music matured and went beyond all their previous boundaries. So is there anything left to invent within this style? No, it’s apparently not will be the listener’s answer after hearing “Emergency Third Rail Power Trip”. But there’s still enough life, creativity and freshness within it to form wonderful and lively music. Rain Parade invents nothing, it only re-invents: all the band does is to recycle all those tunes, all those tricks and styles that delighted a whole generation and put them together on one disc. Almost everything you’ll hear here, you’ve already heart before if you know a bit about psychedelic music. It’s like meeting old friends, you smile about Syd Barret’s child-like lyrics, enjoy the occasional The Doors-organ solo and whip your feet to the rhythm of Neil Young’s guitar. And it is filled from top to bottom with cameo appearances: Lou Reed shaking hands with David Crosby or the Fab Four cracking jokes and laughing. But before the first “Thieves!”-cries arise, let’s state that this is not a collection of stolen moments, but a heartfelt tribute to Rain Parade’s idols. It is no cheap rip-off, but a revitalisation of what made psychedelic music so great. The ideas are not new, but nevertheless fresh and executed with care and understanding.
The album is filled up with beautiful melodies to the maximum. In a way reminding me very much of Pink Floyd’s debut album, every song is made up not by one or two but much more ideas than usual, they change and evolve constantly, which sometimes delivers wonderful unique moments like when the music takes a complete turnaround in the midst of Look at Merri
, maybe the most beautiful passage on the album.
Like most psychedelic bands Rain Parade do nothing spectacular with their instruments, if you search for virtuosity you’re definitely in the wrong place here. But it never were the technical abilities that made the music of Syd Barret, The Beatles or The Doors so great, it were the songwriting and the melodies. Rain Parade use a great range of instruments, from organs and pianos to violins and the sitar, all those instruments that defined the sound of psychedelic rock. Still it is a guitar album in the first place, there’s no song without guitars and the two fuzzy Rickenbacker guitars, played by David Roback and Matt Piucci are the backbone of Rain Parade’s music. The rhythm section, consisting of Steven Roback on bass and Eddie Kalwa on the drums, also delivers nothing special, but still beautiful. The drums are played with obvious care, something quite unusual in rock music, especially in the early 80s. And Will Glenn on the keyboards does his best to enforce the dreamlike feeling of the music. The lyrics have, as I’ve already mentioned, the childlike naivety of a Syd Barret and are delivered by three (!) vocalists: the two guitarists and the bass player. Though never being outright sad, the lyrics always have a certain beautiful melancholy to it, as has the music. The songwriting is always great, Rain Parade already know all the traps musicians within this genre can get caught in, and elegantly avoid them. The songs are relatively short, only two of them crossing the five minute mark, so there’s no fear of boredom of the like of Iron Butterfly. The production, while not being perfect, sounds good but never uses too many effects and so stays pop-like and easily listenable.
The wide range of instruments leads to great musical variety - every of the songs has his own unique characteristics and though the overall melancholic sound and mood is maintained throughout the album, the songs never sound too similar to each other. What really stroke my as strange in positive way after listening to it for a long time is that I still don’t have favourite track. I don’t even have a least favourite song, Rain Parade have done the almost impossible of recording an album with absolutely consistent quality that never looses its appeal. It is just as lovely and likeable now as half a year ago, when I first listened to it.
But from that range of instruments and the amount of ideas also the one problem of this album occurs: the band sometimes seems not to know what they want and to loose sight within their music. They try to put as much into every song as possible, without ever taking a step back and the listener is often almost overpowered with everything that goes on at once. On the following EP “Explosions in the Glass Palace” they would be going to prove that they are also able to follow a more minimalist path, and that it fits them even better. Nevertheless, this is a great album and I strongly recommend it to anyone fond of psychedelic music.