Monday, August 4, 2008


Listen to SOMETHING I DON'T RECOGNIZE by Beachwood Sparks.

Hi everyone! Corbett here--I'm back after a lengthy hiatus due to twins duties, but I'll still be plying the same old country-psych-rock nonsense that you've come to know and probably dread. And this week's series is no different! Last week was kind of rough for me until I learned that my favorite band of this (lackluster) decade reunited to play Sub Pop's 20th anniversary celebration, do a small tour (including NYC) and possibly make a new record.

That group was (and now is) Beachwood Sparks, an LA band that went on hiatus back in 2002. The group had it all: great songs, a distinctive vocal blend, good looks and the proper degree of reverence for their forebears. However, the American record buying public were more interested in things like the Strokes or, um, Travis(?). Anyway, I don't think they got the audience they deserved. In reading about the aforementioned reunion, I came across a piece in Seattle Weekly that I think did a pretty good job of summing up the group's appeal. I'll excerpt a piece of it here to show you what I mean:

"...only Beachwood Sparks ever tried merging damn near every aspect of California pop history, from Hollywood Westerns to the Dead to the paisley underground, into a single sweeping aesthetic.

Interestingly enough, this ambition was born of the band's awareness of their limitations as children of indie rock, which has always championed amateurism over craftsmanship. Unlike, say, Jenny Lewis, who sounds like a suburban prom queen struggling to be Linda Ronstadt or Stevie Nicks, Beachwood Sparks knew they didn't have Nashville West's professionalism, the Beach Boys' voices, or Michael Nesmith's songwriting skills.

What they did have were all those classic California records (possibly including the elusive Charley D. and Milo LP), and the postmodern minds needed to edit their finest hooks into simple, but terribly effective, dreamscapes."

I love dreamscapes, but rather than thinking further about what this meant vis a vis indie rock, I immediately began searching for this elusive Charley D. and Milo LP! Anyway, this impulse got me thinking about the way I've always discovered new records--trusted band (or writer) drops a list of tantalizingly unknown names, and a quest--which respects no bounds of work responsibilities or cost--begins (these "quests" probably also have much to do with indie's limitations, but that's another series).

So, this week I'll be celebrating the return of Beachwood Sparks, as well as playing some records that I discovered in my own search for their antecedents and those they influenced (and maybe even some elusive Charley D.!).

Photo: Bear Flag in Soho.


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