If the moniker didn't already tip you off, you should know that it's damn near impossible to be in a gloomy mood while listening to this group, led by former Olivia Tremor Controller Bill Doss. The group's second full-length release is his most accessible effort yet. No more soundtracks for "unrealized" films, acid-damaged collages, ambitious song suites or twenty-minute epics -- only cheery, whimsical, day-glow pop this time out. This might disappoint fans who fell in love with OTC for their eccentric, experimental side, but Green Imagination
succeeds because it rarely seems obvious or disingenuous, even as it indulges in copious quantities of shamelessly retro fun.
The superlative "Statues and Glue" opens the disc with Badfinger-like harmonies over an ascending bassline and a Tamla beat, but you instantly notice its tightness and brevity (and how seductively those attributes rein you in). "What Do You Know" constructs a neat little symphony of various overdubbed vocal parts, all kept in check by a simple, magnetic piano hook. "Ordinary/Extraordinary" exudes nothing but great big gobs of ecstasy and joy. "Innerstates" takes a brief detour on an otherworldly, disembodied voice-and-synth highway, but "Rx" touches down to earth just in time. For a song about subsisting in an altered state of consciousness (as far as I can tell), its clean (if slightly warped) doo-wop gospel is Doss at his most musically direct, not to mention his most Lennon-esque (particularly circa Double Fantasy). With wicked guitar and mellotron filigrees, it builds to a sublime, mantra-like chorus that goes, "If I try / I confuse my mind / I / can't / stop."
"Afterglow" juxtaposes muddy blues riffs and a down-and-dirty harmonica with more of those brighter-than-white harmonies. "Face The Ghost", on the other hand, brazenly teams "Bang a Gong" with ELO and tops it off with a coda cribbed from Bowie's "Let Dance" (itself cribbed from "Twist and Shout"). But even as you make all the easily apparent associations in Doss's pastiches, they're so over-the-top-fabulous and sincere that he gets away with it. He even (barely) gets away with employing members of The Georgia Children's Chorus on "What Do You Know" and "Runaway Run", expertly, sparsely injecting them into the first song's tapestry and giving them some non-cute (if not wholly trippy) lyrics to sing in the second song ("We are archaeologists / digging up items for the world to see.").
If "Runaway Run" swells with enough emotional uplift for any film's climactic scene, jaunty closer "Sunday Afternoon" seem tailor-made for the closing credits, spinning enough sugar to keep audience members bouncing out of their seats and up the aisles like grinning idiot savants. "Enjoy The Teeth", however, is the one they might remember most vividly days later. After one verse of skeletal piano-and-voice and another that adds on an elegant string section, the song fluidly shifts into up-tempo, multi-tracked psych-pop blissful enough to entice anyone who ever joined the Jellyfish fan club. It goes to show that Doss can deliver a straight pop album without surrendering his ability to surprise.