Sunday, September 06, 2015

Donovan's Brain's "Heirloom Varieties"

It's kind of innaresting that Donovan's Brain's promo schmatter now aligns the Montana-based recording collective with the '80s Paisley Underground. Main Brain man (he denies it, but it's his studio they mostly use, and he's the only muso to appear on every Brain release) and San Francisco expat Ron Sanchez is old enough to have seen all the '60s originals (and he has the tapes to prove it), but as folks that came of age in the '80s are now pushing the half-century mark, it's probably a good signifier to use.

While the Brain have always been tops at approximating the ambience of original psychsters like Syd-era Floyd (The Piper At the Gates of Dawn having achieved the same kind of undeniability for That Kind of Music as Out To Lunch has for jazz, or Two Steps From the Blues get the idea) or the Chocolate Watch Band, what's most striking to these feedback-scorched ears, the first two or three spins, about this new Brain opus is...songcraft!

Specifically, principal Brain songwriter Bobby Sutliff taps into a vein of chiming guitar and lilting vocal harmony that's been a cornerstone of U.S. rockaroll ever since somebody (Terry Melcher?) figured out that the Brit Invasion Searchers' approach might be the ideal way to sell folk-based material to the post-Beatlemania Meercun audience. The enduring popularity of this style, through the work of mainstreamers like Tom Petty and REM, makes me think that in a just universe, songs like "Great Divide," (especially) "Wedding Bell Ring," and "It Wasn't My Idea" (not the Move homage the title made me half hope for) would be bona fide hits.

Elsewhere, there's plenty of the Brain's usual lysergic mystery, and a very nice three-guitar Fleetwood Mac homage ("Let It Go") to beguile you. Cop via the link above.


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