Tuesday, December 4, 2018

3x4: The Bangles, The Three O’ Clock, The Dream Syndicate, The Rain Parade (2018/2019) CD Review

I’ve been lucky to experience some seriously special music scenes a couple of times in my life – first that of the excellent folk artists in Boston in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and then the amazing bands that played at the Peak Show Compound here in L.A. in 2002-2004. There was something magical about these scenes, where the bands were all fans of each other’s work. There was a wonderful camaraderie with other fans too, because the band members would be in the audiences with them for the other bands’ shows. The artists were there to cheer each other on. Such was clearly the case with the groups collectively known as the Paisley Underground, a term apparently coined by Michael Quercio of The Three O’ Clock. Back in the early 1980s in Los Angeles, several groups shared a passion for a certain type of music, a brand of pop with psychedelic elements, a bit of punk, great work on guitar, and strong vocals. Four of the keys bands from that scene reunited for a special concert at the end of 2013 – The Bangles, The Dream Syndicate, The Three O’ Clock and Rain Parade. Now those same bands have gotten together for an interesting and wonderful album, 3x4: The Bangles, The Three O’ Clock, The Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade, in which each band covers a song from each of the other bands. It’s a really cool and unusual idea for an album. Clearly these guys are still cheering each other on, still digging each other’s music. This disc’s liner notes include thoughts and memories from several band members, with The Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn acknowledging “I think we were all intense music fans who also happened to be musicians.”

The disc opens with The Three O’ Clock covering The Bangles’ “Getting Out Of Hand.” Actually, they were still The Bangs when this song was recorded (you can hear it on Ladies And Gentlemen…The Bangles!). Anyway, this music is just so much fun, and it’s even more of a treat getting to hear this after just enjoying the compilation from Permanent Green Light, the band that came about after The Three O’ Clock disbanded. That’s followed by The Bangles covering The Dream Syndicate’s “That’s What You Always Say,” a song featured on their excellent album The Days Of Wine And Roses. From the time The Bangles began, different members sang lead on different songs, before the music industry decided that Susanna Hoffs was the voice of the band. And on this disc, they keep that dynamic, which is wonderful. By the way, this album features the group’s original lineup, including bass player Annette Zilinskas. Her bass features prominently in this great cover of “That’s What You Always Say.” The Dream Syndicate covers Rain Parade’s “You Are My Friend,” a song with something of a sweet and moving sound. “So sad this had to end/But broken things don’t mend/They lie where they fall.” That’s followed by Rain Parade covering The Three O’ Clock’s “As Real As Real,” a song from that band’s Baroque Hoedown EP. This is one of my favorite tracks, beautiful and compelling, with an otherworldly, enchanting sound. I love that guitar.

The Three O’ Clock then delivers an excellent rendition of The Dream Syndicate’s “Tell Me When It’s Over,” another song from The Days Of Wine And Roses. The band gives it more of a psychedelic sound than the original, and of course the vocals have less of a Lou Reed sound. Interestingly, that’s followed by another song from that same album, “When You Smile,” here performed by Rain Parade, who gives it a dreamy opening. Then it kicks in with a glorious force. “It seems like the end of the world/When you smile.” This is such a good song, and Rain Parade delivers a seriously cool rendition, with some delicious psychedelic guitar. And the jam at the end is both gritty and trippy. Then The Bangles give us a wonderful rendition of Rain Parade’s “Talking In My Sleep,” the lead track from that band’s Emergency Third Rail Power Trip LP. I love those sweet vocals over that psychedelic base. There is also a bit of a folk sound at the heart of this track. This is another of the disc’s highlights. That’s followed by The Dream Syndicate covering The Bangles’ “Hero Takes A Fall,” an interesting choice, for rumor has it that the song is about Steve Wynn. The Dream Syndicate bursts right into the song, this version featuring a lot of great guitar. Interestingly, Vicki Peterson sings backup on this track, like a guest on her own song, which is cool. I also dig the bass.

The Bangles cover The Three O’ Clock’s “Jet Fighter,” a song from Sixteen Tambourines. The way it suddenly bursts in with that beat reminds me of their cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade Of Winter.” This is such a catchy song. It’s followed by Rain Parade covering The Bangles’ “The Real World” (here listed as “Real World”), the lead track from the band’s self-titled 1982 EP. There is something pretty about this track. “This is the real world/And I believe our love is real/The only thing I’m counting on.” “What She’s Done To Your Mind” is a delightful pop number with a strong 1960s vibe, originally done by Rain Parade and here covered by The Three O’ Clock. Susanna Hoffs joins them on backing vocals on this track. The disc then concludes with The Dream Syndicate covering “She Turns To Flowers,” by The Three O’ Clock (actually, at that point the band was still The Salvation Army). It begins like a punk song, with that beat, and is certainly the most rockin’ track on the disc, a great wild energetic tune to wrap up this remarkable release.

CD Track List
  1. Getting Out Of Hand
  2. That’s What You Always Say
  3. You Are My Friend
  4. As Real As Real
  5. Tell Me When It’s Over
  6. When You Smile
  7. Talking In My Sleep
  8. Hero Takes A Fall
  9. Jet Fighter
  10. Real World
  11. What She’s Done To Your Mind
  12. She Turns To Flowers
3x4: The Bangles, The Three O’ Clock, The Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade is scheduled to be released on CD on January 11, 2019 through Yep Roc Records. It was first released as a limited edition on both vinyl and CD on November 23, 2018 as part of Black Friday Record Store Day.

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