What if Big Star hadn’t been Beatles buffs, but was instead a bunch of acid-gobblers making pan-fried tunage a la Spacemen 3? Or if Pavement had been young soul disciples enamored of classic Motown and Stax-Volt platters instead of lo-fi mavens operating under severe budgetary constraints? Or if nutjob Julian Cope had nurtured a serious funk ’n’ purple jones and got his start not at Eric’s in Liverpool but at Minneapolis’ First Avenue club? These are thoughts that flicker by while listening to the first few songs on the long-playing debut from Australia’s Sand Pebbles, and they’re not necessarily random critical conceits.
The combo has previously put its own unique spin, via tribute compilations, upon Television, Gene Clark and homeland heroes Masters Apprentice, so it’s apparent from the get-go that this is a band with longtime record collectors in the lineup. Even better, the tunes themselves, while trainspotter delights, are among the year’s most groovealiciously psychedelic. The dirty fuzztone of “Moving Too Fast” and the gospel-drone shimmer of “The Big V” both incite much ruminative wandering of the brain. (The latter’s psych imprinting is felt even more explicitly in the fretboard twangs, whose modalities have been worked out at the highest levels of introspection.)
A pair of back-to-back 8-minute numbers (“The Sundowner,” “Charmed”) each unfold slowly and purposefully, with a modicum of noodliness for good lysergic measure, in true pastoral-cinematic fashion. And as regards the above-referenced icons: “Moving Too Fast” suggests Alex Chilton busting a move with Sonic Boom, “My Sensation” sounds like Smokey Robinson gone indie rock, and there’s a, dare I say it, downright funky cover of Julian Cope’s “Out of My Mind on Dope and Speed.” The title-phrase chorus is one of those classic sing-along moments, even better than that Queens of the Stone Age tune about Vicodin et al. C’mon folks, shout it out loud, you know you wanna.
E-mail Fred Mills at [email protected].