Norway - Full Moon 168 - 05/28/10
The Smell Of Incense
A Curious Miscellany
September Gurls Records
In an interview with the band three years ago main spokesman and ideological leader Lumpy Davy was confronted with cover versions recorded by the band of some well known and some lesser known songs from the psychedelic 1960s. They included "I'm Allergic To Flowers" (by Jefferson Handkerchief), "The Smell Of Incense" (The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band), "A Visit With Ashiya" (Merrel Fankhauser's HMS Bounty), "Coming Down" (United States of America), "If Not This Time" (Fifty Foot Hose) and "Why Did I Get So High?" (Peanut Butter Conspiracy) released on singles in the first half of the 1990s. There had been rumours of an entire album of cover versions for several years and we asked if it would ever materialise? Lumpy confirmed that they were recording it at that moment and assured it would include obscure and not so obscure acid punk & psych songs from the 60s. This is not it. Instead A Curious Miscellany includes those cover recordings mentioned above, along with a few others and a couple of self penned songs, 12 all together. All except two, I think, were recorded in the 1990s. So, this is neither the new cover version album, nor a Best of type of album.
In addition to the above mentioned A- and B-sides the album includes two demo recordings "(I Wanna Live In The) Golden State", bassist Han Solo's vision of going far west (previously available on a cassette accompanying a Greek psychedelic magazine, I think), and "Christopher's Journey", guitarist Lumpy Davy's Winnie-the-Pooh-vision, somewhat different from the later recording that surfaced on TSOI's first longplayer, with a guitar riff that nods in the direction of "Dead End Street" by The Kinks. The humorous hippie-experience with the "Swami" (by William Penn Fyve aka. William Penn & His Pals) first saw the light of day on a German compilation LP in the mid 1990s. "Witches Hat", a hippie-folk-country version of The Incredible String Band-classic (check out the newly released remasters of the first four ISB-albums!), and "Varulv" a full-blooded folk-rock version of a Norwegian traditional song, are taken from TSOI's debut album and vocalist/fiddler Bumble B's so far only solo album Flight of the Bumble B, respectively. The version of "Coming Down" on A Curious Miscellany includes an instrumental, free-form to some extent, part not included on the original seven inch single. That leaves only "Tread Softly On My Dreams", partly a majestic mellotron-hymn alike version of the best song by the vintage British prog-psychedelic band Czar. It was recorded in 2005 and the only song previously never released in the
TSOI way of the album. If it is the only finished song off the abandoned cover-album mentioned above or an appetiser I don't know.
With two exceptions A Curious Miscellany, along with the debut album All Mimsy Were The Borogoves, sums up the first phase of the band ending around 1995. Those who only know TSOI from their two last long-players Through The Gates Of Deeper Slumber and Of Ullages And Dottles with only self-penned and more intricate music are in for a surprise. The new album is filled with more light-weight pop oriented songs with a distinct 1960s flavour, with loads of psychedelic elements and some mighty fine guitar work. One of the band's greatest assets in my opinion is the twin guitar solos were the notes entwine. Listen to "A Visit With Ashiya", an all time favourite, and "Swami" for excellent examples. For me, who've heard the majority of these recordings earlier, the version of "Tread Softly On My Dreams" alone justify the album. My most vivid memory from TSOI's European Tour in 1998 was a rendition of this song with lots of psychedelic light effects at a club in Berlin. The version included here and the picture of the band at the front page of the CD insert will preserve that memory.
Copyright © 2010 JP