Wednesday, November 16, 2022


Hey, if you're a "cult-inspired spinoff of the legendary Simply Saucer," as this disc is proudly stickered, then I'm in right away. Actually, I was in for the group's last disc as well, 2019's Golden Hits of The Shangs, which marked the return of David Byers' psych-pop band to the recording scene after many years. 

Again, the original member of Simply Saucer is joined by old cronies from the Hamilton band, and previous Shangs members The O'Neill brothers, to craft more of the cultish craziness they love. And they love two things in particular: 1960's girl groups (their name comes from The Shangri-Las) and tales of old, weird Hollywood, especially nasty deaths of stars and starlets. 

These stories serve as the inspiration for the songs, sometimes as lyrics, other times as titles for instrumentals and musical themes. The centerpiece is the psycho-psyche number "High Noon" which tells the tale of the murder of the father of the famous 50's & 60's singing group The Lennon Sisters by a deranged fan, with an eerie throwback to the group's most famous song, "Tonight, You Belong To Me." What I love best about Byer's keen interest in these stories is that for each one, he tells the background stories in the liner notes, from the death of Japanese pop star Kyu Sakamoto, he of the 1963 #1 hit "Sukiyaki", in the world's worst airplane crash (520 dead), to Hollywood acid casualty Craig Smith (aka Maitreya Kali), who wrote songs for Glen Campbell and The Monkees before going, you know, nuts. Then there's that ultimate girl group, the women of the Manson family. 

There's interesting musical archaeology as well, with songs taking musical cues from the stories. Joanie "Johnny Get Angry" Sommers went into Bossa Nova sounds after her one-hit wonder pop career, which led to Byers' gentle Tropicalia number (Lying Here) In Brazil. And he found an obscure 1960's song written by Chip ("Wild Thing", "Angel of the Morning") Taylor, called "Just As I Need You," revitalized here complete with stellar guest guitar work by Hamilton jazz wizard Kyle Pacey. 

The Golden Hits album had more of a poppy, fun sound in the mix, whereas this set goes completely left field, with almost all the songs existing in that rarefied air between psychedelia, ambient, and free jazz. That's challenging as a casual listen, but the point is for the listener to take a deep dive into this unique, sometimes unsettling, but mostly fascinating form of storytelling.

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