Sunday, July 25, 2010

January 14, 2010: Psychobabble recommends ‘Listen & See’ by The Blue Things

One-shot groups pack a mysteriousness that would inevitably be defused had their careers spanned beyond a single album. Take The Blue Things, a Kansas-based folk-rock group that released their first and final album in 1966. Had they continued recording and maturing, they probably would have polished away the haunting murk in which their songs swim on Listen & See. Weirdly, the only element that consistently floats above the dense soup of acoustic and electric guitars, rock-bottom bass, and massed vocals is the percussion. But The Blue Things' aural impenetrability makes them all the more appealing, as they stir up a rich river of sound through which the listener may swim, picking out bits of melody and lyric as if they were pearls secreted in deep-water oysters. A little effort reveals "Dollhouse" to be a lament about a brothel, "The Man on the Street" to be a an anti-conformity ode worthy of Ray Davies, and "Honor the Hearse" to be peppered with strangely morbid philosophical nuggets. Much of the fine material was composed by group member Val Stecklein, but the band also gets off strong versions of Dylan's "Girl from the North Country" and Jimmy Reed's "Ain't That Lovin' You, Baby" (which had recently been covered in similar fashion by The Beau Brummels). The only misstep is the sappy ballad "Look Homeward, Angel". Otherwise, Look & See is primed to snare garage and folk-rock cultists in its undertow.

"La Do Da Da" by The Blue Things

Blue - Click here for funny video clips

The most readily available reissue of Listen & See is simply titled The Blue Things and adds the three psychedelically oriented singles the group released on the heels of their L.P. Each one, including the minor classic "Orange Rooftop of Your Mind" and a crazed deconstructionist take on "Twist and Shout", is as essential as anything on Listen & See.

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