Friday, August 15, 2008

Wide Awake In The Spirit World: The Best of Outrageous Cherry

It's great to be back. Life takes away from art. Unfortunately, art the expression of it in rock 'n' roll, goes on without you. I've got a lot of great bands to tell you about and a lot of catching up to do, which they really deserve. It's been a month since the last review and there's much more on the way. Here's a new one, and definitely worth the wait.

Outrageous Cherry

Wide Awake In The Spirit World: The Best Of Outrageous Cherry
Wicked Cool Records

Detroit's Outrageous Cherry has an impressive pedigree to start with. Frontman Matthew Smith played with Jack White of The White Stripes in The Go currently plays in Detroit's famous country/space rock foray The Volebeats with Detroit guitar legend John Nash (Electric Six) and occasional contributions from The Dirtbombs bassist Troy Gregory, The Volebeats, and has also collaborated with local staples His Name Is Alive, and former drummer Deb Agolli from The Gore Gore Girls. Matthew Smith is also a producer, so his pedigree spins out all over Detroit. Therefore, one could only expect a Detroit Staple to sound like Detroit. Surprisingly, Wide Awake In The Spirit World which is a compilation of their previous releases from Bar None, Third Gear, and Rainbow Quartz. Maybe as no surprise and comparable to numerous known bands from Rock City, Outrageous Cherry is a broader celebration of great rock 'n' roll, although heavily psychedelic.

In great local spirit, Outrageous Cherry is lo-fi psychedelic, meaning there's no studio effects but trippy songs that mostly run under three minutes. One hears a basic song full of muddy chords, acidic lead guitars and combined male/female vocals of The Mamas and the Papas on the opening "What Have You Invented Today," but instead of the semi-optimism of '60s pop for a sharper tongued accusation "Tell me how history works, when it's written by small minded jerks, their eyes on the prize of the lines where we communicate only with lies." One hears this song and know's it's a 60's psychedelic/pop inspired vibe, but the feedback combined with the vocal harmonies is something new because it feels like a DIY approach outside of record labels, which cleaned up the sound of so many great '60s acts to make them appeal to a wider audience. Another piece of feedback/psych perfection is "Why Don't You Stay For A Little While" with an underlied guitar feedback rhythm combined with the style of the late Syd Barrett. It's kind of heavy, but three chord simplicity. Since psychedelia was such a brief musical trend, there aren't many comparisons to draw from. Then again, nobody's come close to a reminiscence of The Beatles staple "Tomorrow Never Knows" like "Girl You Have The Magic Inside of You."

As if the muddy feedback and guitar effects without the overwhelming studio manipulation isn't retro enough, "Pretty Girls Go Insane" introduces a horn section that's ambitious like Love Forever Changes, but again with sharp tongued lyrics and guitar that might be considered as definitively Detroit. The "swirly" psychedelia is traded up for a trippier, Velvets minimalism on downers with "Young and Miserable" that serves as a modern song that would not have been considerable in the psychedelic days. "You're young and miserable, but I like it that way."

Outrageous Cherry is psychedelic. Easier to type, but harder to pin down. '60s psych pop vocals, psychedelic guitars, trippy echoed vocals, but collapsed into mostly short, basic garage rock songs. Maybe if VU played Brian Wilson's songs. "Our Love Will Change The World in to a strange place that we don't recognize when we look into each others' eyes." This makes one think of what bands like The Byrds and perhaps so many other well known '60s LA Rock acts might have played behind the backs of their record labels. In other words, the artists are dictating their music and their attitude without the intervention of the suits and ties above them.

Outrageous Cherry's Wide Awake In The Spirit World: The Best of Outrageous Cherry is psychedelic, but garage rock in the delivery and even more acerbic in it's sarcasm and bite. The music might sound happy at times, but the songs themselves have no optimism, which is pretty cool. It's a better tribute to so many great influences cited above when one considers that people like Arthur Lee or Jim (Rodger) McGuinn were practically forced into using their talents to make music that would sell records instead of putting more confrontational words and chaos into their music like they might have wanted to do at times. The result is that Outrageous Cherry has no compromises. It's great music. Even "New Creature" with it's la la la harmonies and handclaps is somehow rebellious and new. Wide Awake In The Spirit World: The Best of Outrageous Cherry is over 50 minutes of pessimistic psychedelic perfection. A more apt comparison is The Paisley Underground Movement in the '80s, when bands like The Plimsouls, The Bangles, Salvation Army, and Australian counterparts The Stems picked up Rickenbackers and made music against the grain by combining the punk rock attitude with garage rock psychedelia, only Outrageous Cherry takes this a step further with LA Folk Rock harmonies. For many, it's going to sound derivative, but a real listen reveals the depth and originality that's truly characteristic of a real rock band. Matthew Smith and his bandmates' Detroit pedigrees have already spoken for that. Naturally, there's a lot more to it.

For being so sharply critical, Wide Awake In The Spirit World: The Best Of Outrageous Cherry is also a lot of fun. Even more, the influences are obvious but the lo-fi, muddy production communicates a stronger sense of confusion, which has a greater feel of confrontation. As so many of us know, the spirit of confrontation by going against the norm or acceptable formula by taking the basics and twisting it is the cornerstone of what we call great rock 'n' roll.

"We have little regard for anything" mixed with The Beach Boys. Incredible.

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