For a few years in the mid-'60s, pioneering rock bands retained the freshness of their early work while tinkering with elements from such far-flung genres as traditional pop, electronica and both European and Asian classical music. The immediate result was such baroque-pop hits as the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever," the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" and the Byrds' "Eight Miles High," but the influence of that heady period lingered long after those bands unraveled. Some of the style's exponents were commercially potent--Electric Light Orchestra scored 20 Beatlesesque Top 40 hits in the '70s and '80s--but most found only cult success. Indeed, the latest crop of albums from such baroque popsters as Jupiter Affect and the Loud Family continues the neo-psychedelic vocation of the '80s California bands dubbed the "Paisley Underground."
It was Michael Quercio who coined the term Paisley Underground, and the
band he fronted for much of the '80s, the Three O'Clock, exemplified the style:
swooning melodies, choirboy vocals and neoclassical filigrees atop brisk,
'60s-rooted rock. The group split in 1988, after an ill-fated alliance with
Prince's Paisley Park label, and Quercio kept a low profile for a decade. The
layoff didn't alter the singer-songwriter's style, however. His new quartet,
Jupiter Affect, begins roughly where the Three O'Clock stopped. The band's
first album, "Instructions for the Two Ways of Becoming Alice" (eggBERT), was
even produced by Earle Mankey, who also supervised the Three O'Clock's best
album, "Sixteen Tambourines."
Quercio apparently did some reading during his layoff; Jupiter Affect's songs include references to alchemy, mythology and classical history. Yet despite such titles as "Goodbye Arthur (Le Morte D'Arthur)" and "Inside (Isis Rising)," these tunes don't exactly have an antiquarian outlook. Such buoyant, richly melodic songs as "White Knuckle Sound" and "Druscilla I Dig Your Scene" evoke the pleasures of carefree adolescence: School's out, the sun is shining, love is new. "Do you know where you go when you die?/ To a place where no one lies," explains "Together" in just one of the album's many canny impersonations of '60s youth-culture cosmology. With their elaborate structures, art-rock asides and French horn accents, these songs are hardly simple, but Quercio uses his considerable skills to conjure a spirit of elemental rapture.
Stay true to bouncy glam-pop, and you still won't get much of a chance to ever become a star. The good news, however, is that you eventually get to recycle your best moments for a new generation. Michael Quercio still looks 12 years old, but his work with The Three O'Clock dates back to the ancient days of college-rock. He knows how to write a catchy tune, and is also bored enough to stretch out with unexpected moments. This surprisingly solid collection will bring back fond memories to old fans, and might deservedly lure in those young folks who just don't get techno.
It the phrase "psychedelic power pop" sounds enticing to your musical palate, then the debut full length by Jupiter Affect is definitely for you. Lead singer/songwriter Michael Quercio writes with the sharpness he exhibited in his former band The Three O'Clock, and his boyish, British-tinged vocals and inflections have an air not unlike that of the early Bee Gees. Tracks like "Loved One's Lies", "Goodbye Arthur (Le Morte D'Arthur)", and "Together" ( a resurrection of a tune from his Permanent Green Light days) are crisp, crunchy power pop as only Quercio can do it, and fans of DM3 will adore "Druscilia I Dig Your Scene", which is an absolute gem. The band's whimsical side is displayed on "The Chemical Wedding Of Christian Rosencruetz" (damn, they always stick me at the periodic table!), and they bring on the boogie with "Good Time", featuring the down 'n dirty licks of Jason "Rick Parfitt" Shapiro. You'll also dig the wispy ballad "Michael And Mary", and "Inside (Isis Rising)" is as regal as they come. Instructions For The Two Ways Of Becoming Alice is one winner of an album.
Jupiter Affect frontman Michael Querico is tracing the evolution of his fixation with the Sixties music that has permeated his own music during the last eighteen years of his career, culminating in his present band's new album, Instructions for the Two Ways of Becoming Alice. He pinpoints -his teenage musical epiphany to one album: "Probably the biggest thing was the Nuggets album, that Lenny Kaye one," he says, citing the compilation of one-hit-wonder, American psychedelic garage rock bands that the future Patti Smith guitarist assembled in 1972. "I found that for two dollars, sealed, in some record store bargain bin. I played that, and I was like, 'Wow!' From there I got into Love and Arthur Lee, and that just blew my mind. People would say, 'Why do you like that old music?' Then I discovered a lot of people who liked that music."
Indeed he did. And out of those like-minded people sprang a host of bands -- the Dream Syndicate, the Bangles, Rain Parade, Green on Red, and Quercio's own group, the Three O'Clock -- who made noise in early-Eighties' Los Angeles by puffing their own spin on the "old music" they were so enamored with. Though each group was distinct in sound, they would forever be bound together by Quercio's offhand label, "the Paisley Underground."
But if Quercio holds the dubious honor of naming that short-lived scene, he can also be credited with producing its most enduring artifact: the Three O'Clock's first full-length album, 1983's Sixteen Tambourines, which blended the strong melodies and sonic adventurousness of bands like the Move, Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd and the early Bee Gees with a New Wave vivacity. The indie release earned them a hit with the single "Jet Fighter" and a spot on IRS's roster, but what seemed like a promising start turned out to be the beginning of a slow decline as the major-label machinery attempted, usually successfully, to get Quercio to conform his music to Eighties' commercial standards. Even a jump to Prince's Paisley Park label and a complimentary tune from his purple majesty couldn't stop the inevitable.
"Coming out of the Three O'Clock, I was like, 'I don't want to front a band, ... Quercio says. "I just wanted to be a member of some sort of confederation. I didn't want all the pressure." After toying with the idea of forming a new group with Game Theory's Scoft Miller, Quercio put together the hard-rocking trio Permanent Green light. But after two albums of sharing songwriting duties with a bandmate, Quercio reconsidered his situation. "I realized it wasn't as rewarding," he says, laughing. "[But] I had to do that to realize what I really love to do is front a band."
He found his bliss when he formed the Jupiter Affect three years ago. After priming the pump with a self-titled five-song EP, Quercio took the band -- guitarists Jason Shapiro and Dan Epstein (recently replaced by John Kling), and drummer Chris Bruckner -- into the studio to make the kind of record he'd like to hear.
Seldom has an artist reclaimed his mojo as completely and convincingly as Quercio does on Instructions for the Two Ways of Becoming Alice, produced by Earle Mankey, who did Sixteen Tambourines. The album's thirteen songs narrow the gap between the paisley pop of the Three O'Clock and PGL's edgier rock and glimmer with a psychedelic sheen. Whether it's the apocalyptic, "A Day in the Life"-like interlude in the acoustic ballad "Michael and Mary," the sitar intro and rolling bass line of "I See the Sun," or the crowd applause that heralds the two worthy guitar solos on "Druscilla I Dig Your Scene," it's in the artful details that you can feel Quercio's renewed vigor.
"The EP was done so quickly, there was no time to really experiment," Quercio says. "We kind of went in, plugged the amp in, in an hour your done and it's a record. But for this we got to sit down [and actually arrange it]. I have fun making those kinds of records." Quercio explains that there is a theme developed during the course of the album based on The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz, the fifteenth century Rosecrucian manifesto on the inner transformation of the soul. In fact, one of the album's best tracks bears the text's cumbersome title.
"White Knuckle Sound' starts the album out with an incident of confusion and that's where the story takes off," Quercio says. "Then the record ends with 'We Don't Believe You,' which means all of this may be suspect." And that's all he's going to give away. Apparently, listeners need to hunker down with a copy of the medieval tome and fill in the blanks themselves. But despite any cryptic concepts, the albums gotten an enthusiastic response. "We thought we were putting out this freaky thing that people were just going to scratch their heads at," he says, "but we're glad we were able to go a little out there -- and that people are willing to come out there with us
Later that same night, another record release party was underway at LunaPark, this one celebrating the unleashing of the Jupiter Affect's debut full-length album, Instructions for the Two Ways of Becoming Alice. The event was, in reality, a showcase for the local Eggbert Records indie label, and in addition to the Jupiter Affect, former Dramarama vocalist/ songwriter John Easdale and both Rusty Squeezebox and Mike Randle of Baby Lemonade (each of whom have upcoming solo albums scheduled for release on the label) also performed. Although the Jupiter Affects music is laced with generous doses of obscure British psychedelia, this is power-pop through and through, somehow managing to blend the baroque elegance of the Zombies with the, supercharged power chording of early Who and the bombastic hard rock of Deep Purple. Fronted by former Three O' Clock/Permanent Green Light architect Michael Quercio (who, amazingly, still looks like he's barely old enough to drive) and powered by new guitarist Jason Shapiro's Mick Ronson-like licks, the band played one of their strongest live sets ever. They could even pump life back into LA's vapid pop music scene...