I've yet to discern a difference between
The Essex Green and their alter-egos, The Sixth Great Lake; they have the same members, the same sound, share the same label,
and use the same retro-cover art. One uses the
Elephant 6 logo on their releases, while the other
evidently feels the name change also distinguishes
them from the E6 tag.
Up The Country is an altogether solid and
mood-enveloping listen, yet the album is far from a
pastoral masterpiece. While outshining the previous
Essex Green full-length, it fails to live up to
the promise of the band's initial, self-titled EP. This
band has the potential to release an album of Belle
and Sebastian proportions, but came up a bit short
on this attempt.
Up the Country fully acknowledges its '60s posturing
and finds the band turning their backs on whatever
minimal trace of Kindercore-cutesy-pop they had in
them -- in the process ridding themselves of any pretense of quasi-prescience. Yeah, I thought their
past blend of '60s pop suffused with neo-twee (whatever
that means) leanings was sorta modern -- if not
in the same way a new David Bowie or Lou Reed album
can be modern. In that sense, this sounds more like a
Ladybug Transistor release (another Essex Green/Sixth
Great Lake permutation) than it does an Essex
Green/Sixth Great Lake album. There's not a drastic
difference, but a difference exists.
The album's success lies in its ability to tap into
universal emotions. It feels like a post-apocalyptic walk in the only garden that survived a
nuclear holocaust. Dazzled and droll, you meander out
of your underground-shelter. Giving an oblong glance
left you suddenly catch a crimson gust of roses
adjacent to a flaccid family of pink lilies in an
otherwise barren wasteland. You sit. You smile. Happiness and tranquillity seem to converge, spawning
a subjectively new-sprung, delightfully restrained
emotional force, and for a brief moment, as the album
ends, you feel a sort of everlasting content.
"Yo, captain...Pass the bong!"
"Oh, sorry, man." Giving a somewhat bemused head-shake,
you suddenly can't help but feel a little worldly in
the presence of others. "I was just thinking about
something...hey Jason, who was that?"
"The new Essex Green -- err -- Sixth Great Lake album.
Stupid, cutesy name swapping..."
"I'm really into it.." you say.
Your friend Larry, who has remained quiet until
now, finally finds the right opportunity to chime in
with his usual pseudo-informed criticism.
"Whatever...I guess it's good if you like boring,
cliched, pop from the '60s."
You've had all you can take. Lacing up your
bright-red Sauconys and pulling a sweater over a
light pink Of Montreal shirt, you blurt out, "You just don't get it, man!" and
race for the exit, slamming
the door before Larry can give his compulsory retort.