The 405 – 18th June 2013
To call a psych-pop album “derivative” would be to completely miss the point. However, it is also something that happens all the time. Bands that write in this style, for the most part, are not looking to change a whole lot about it, and while many non-fans are sure to say “They just want to be the Beatles” or something similar, it really makes one wonder: Is that really so bad? Besides, calling something “derivative” is much more of an insult when the style is being capitalized on during a period of high marketability. (I’m looking at you, Their Satanic Majesties Request.)
Regardless, great psychedelic pop bands never merely copy what has come before them, but rather, they draw from their influences and find a way to make it sound new – and with a name like The Electric Soft Parade, brothers Alex and Thomas White aren’t exactly hiding the fact that they have some 1960s precursors.
Their first full-length album under this moniker since 2007’s No Need to Be Downhearted, IDIOTS finds The Electric Soft Parade basically exploring a similar sound to the one that they’ve associated themselves with since the beginning, which is sure to make fans and newcomers alike very happy.
And why wouldn’t it? After all, there’s a lot to be happy about on IDIOTS. For instance, it is suggested in the almost saccharine opener that unabashedly takes full advantage of pop song structure, “The sun never shined on me until you came around / And now the sun never sets around here,” as if it’s that completely dreadful to fall in love.
The Beach Boys-style harmonies found in songs like ‘Summertime In My Heart’ and others make IDIOTS a perfect sunny day album, one that is full of sunshine even in its darkest moments.
One such dark moment is ‘The Corner of Highdown and Montefiore’ which starts as a low-key acoustic ballad with a melody that kind of recalls the work of Elliott Smith before going into a chorus that is more akin to bands like Radiohead at some of their stronger moments. The Electric Soft Parade even offer their trippy take on the ‘Hey Jude’-style, repetitive-but-in-motion ending which makes the song extremely contemplative.
On the subject of Paul McCartney, songs like ‘Mr. Mitchell’ prove that ESP have been studying the craft of writing catchy pop tunes for some time now and that their work has definitely paid off. The piano-based song that boasts some really great descending harmonies on the chorus is the kind of effort that will always be interesting, and the wonderfully executed meter change near the end is as delightful as it is surprising. The fade out at the end of the track made me realize how little you hear fade outs anymore and suggests that this would be a great song for the radio.
Being their first album in seven years, it is clear that IDIOTS was well worth the wait. It is an album by a band that knows what it’s good at and takes full advantage of their pop songwriting abilities. – Kevin Dunn
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