Living in the wake of history, as time dissolves like so much Kool-Aid powder in a crystal pitcher on a hot day in July, we're offered the opportunity to observe the art and music of former epochs objectively, from a distance. We have the opportunity to make of it what we will, dredging out the parts that we like and polishing them like a mirror, while dumping the detritus down the drain like so much raw sewage.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of baroque, psychedelic pop. While the first wave of lollipop lickers and elf kickers had their share of masterful moments The Left Banke's "Walk Away Renee;” The Beatles and The Beach Boys more ambitious, artistic efforts, like Pet Sounds or Rubber Soul - many of the original psych rockers were so swept away by the incense cloud they lost any sense of restraint or self-control. It was the '60s, after all.
For every ambitious, masterful art statement to emerge from the first wave of psychedelia, there were hundreds of tepid, mediocre, silly, senseless, self-indulgent singles and rush-job LPs, cashing in on the trend and trying to get laid. The late '60s and early '70s was a wall of mish-mashed cultural appropriation, pseudo-mystical bohemianism and, most criminally, just plain bad songwriting. Eventually punk would rear its ugly, spiky head and level the playing field like a hydrogen bomb, removing the pretension but also the ambition, along the way.
Mining the past for treasures and inspiration can be a fertile gold field when handled correctly, as in the case of Fayetteville, North Carolina's The Sands of Times' debut Rain Falls, Time Slides. The Sands of Time take The Beatles/Beach Boys/Left Banke's artful baroque pop or the twee miniatures of Van Dyke Parks' Song Cycle, running them through an atom smasher with some modern psychedelia, a la Tame Impala, Guided By Voices or the Elephant 6 Collective.
Critically listening to music of the past allows musicians the ability to present historical sounds in trippy new configurations. The Sands of Time take the glistening, chorused guitars, lush vocal harmonies and a closet full of musical tools, as Syd Barrett put it, and run them through a diaphanous wall of echoes and reverb. It's like listening to the sound of the '60s from deep space. This is what The Strawberry Alarm Clock might sound like as it approaches Alpha Centauri.
Frankly, to be utterly successful, punk, classic rock and psychedelia need each other. Punk's sloppiness and primitivism gets pretty old, pretty fast, but the anger and adrenaline is like a dose of nitro in the gas tank of whatever genre it's combined with. Hippy music gets unbearably precious, totally self-indulgent and sloppy, to be frank, very quickly.
The Sands of Time updates classic '60s baroque pop psychedelia with energy, emotion and an interesting, individualistic aesthetic. All of the psych bells and whistles are merely adornments to make already great songs even greater, which is pretty much the best compliment one could give, and one of the things that's great about being a modern music lover. The Sands of Time invite us to rip off the rosy glasses of nostalgia, but also not to jettison the past or succumb to every passing fad or trend. Sometimes older IS better.
For fans of psych revisionists like Tame Impala, or the dearly missed The Clientele, along with the best of first wave '60s psychedelic pop rock, light up your incense and your ear enhancement and get transported!
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