Friday, February 5, 2010

SAGE - The Pinecones


The Pinecones
Just Friends Records.

SCQ Rating: 83%

A record like SAGE would usually elicit a rant of my revivalist prejudices well before I unwrapped the cellophane. Something about how modern bands reap the flower-power generation of all its clichés, something about how too many acts are dancing on the shoulders of Beatles’ psychedelia, Joy Division nihilism, or the John Hughes’ cinematic zeitgeist. Luckily, I didn’t even know what The Pinecones were about when first listening to their sophomore’s title track but having taken in SAGE’s bounty of ripe guitar licks and vocal harmonies, my revivalist rant needn’t apply. Unlike recent borrowers like The Soundcarriers, The Pinecones’ don’t treat their 60s muse as a crutch to assemble half-original songs, instead opting to write unapologetically classic compositions that rival those of the Kinks or fellow East-Coasters Edward Bear. A record like SAGE has been long overdue.

Chances are, even those who celebrated the band’s previous album We Were Strangers In Paddington Green don’t know what the Pinecones are really about. Taking a left turn from their debut’s refined piano-laced pop, Brent Randall and His Pinecones abandoned the hierarchy and reformed as four equal songwriters singing their own material under the name The Pinecones. The potential risk involved with Randall’s loosening of the reigns pays significant dividends on SAGE, with each Pinecone contributing uniquely structured tracks to flesh out this psych-heavy exploration. The summery jam ‘Never Seen the Likes’ keeps the album’s back-end spritely while ‘Jenny Fur’, in its guitar stabs and runaway chorus, has the feel-good power to be jangling over a raucous beer commercial. Of SAGE’s boundless variety, it should come as no surprise that Randall pens many of the highlights. Whether he’s toasting to the jaunty ‘Tea Tonight’ or coining one of the great song-titles of 2010 on the front-porch funky ‘5 O’Clock Shadow (Of a Moonbeam)’, Randall digs deep into the far-out vestiges of the 60s to create this psychotropic treasure chest.

As impressive as The Pinecones are collaboratively, half the fun of SAGE lies in its sonic experimentation led by producer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Linklater. Despite the record’s lo-fi techniques, mystic adventures are plentiful on the tripped-out tale of ‘I Am a Mountain’ and in the epilogue flourishes of ‘O Ivy’. If, by the time of final track ‘Four More Days (Til I Open My Music Shoppe)’, it sounds like The Pinecones are slowing down, they’re actually just getting deeper within their own tie-dyed rabbit-hole, swimming in warped organ-tones and squiggly effects. Nothing this fresh can be revivalist fodder and if anything, paradoxically, SAGE often sounds ahead of its time.

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