[record reviews: phanerothyme]


Review of Phanerothyme taken from the
power pop, garage and psychedelic e-zine
FUFKIN, November 2001.
In English. Found at the fufkin site.

Stickman Records
Released Fall, 2001

What Say We All Go On A Little Trip?

Every time this is played, I end up grinning ear to ear. Sometimes I even laugh. Not because it's funny, but because it's like finding something I lost a long time ago. This record is majorly retro, straddling the fine line between sunny bubblegum pop and acid-drenched outings into psychedelia.
I don't know much about this band, except that they hail from Norway and they used to be a hair metal band, if their debut is any indication. 2000's Let Them Eat Cake saw them take a turn toward headier business, and Phanerothyme finds them sounding for all the world like a jumbled (yet ultimately easier to take) dose of Yes and Traffic crossed with the Doors.

This is not a bad thing. They do get a bit jammy from time to time (think of Chris Wood's furious flute solos with Traffic, or Ray Manzarek's keyboard solo from "Light My Fire"), yet Motorpsycho seem capable of maintaining cohesion rather than creating musical chaos (which would lead, necessarily, to musical suicide). And most of this controlled mayhem is best demonstrated on track five, "Go To California", with its refrains of "you can have kisses by the millions" and "get up, go to California, go to where the skies are blue". Undoubtedly penned during the long, dark winter Scandinavian days.

It doesn't matter that they jam or spin off on wild musical tangents, because the jams are grandly orchestral, and stunningly arranged. This song is so brilliant that it makes the rest of the album sound a bit anti-climactic.

It simply has something both new and also very familiar: the influences are on display, but the song belongs firmly to the present. "Bedroom Eyes" is softly spun, verging on folk music with its acoustic guitar, while "B.S." shows off more flute and horn noodling and "For Free" is a hard-rocker. The actual power pop here is found on "The Slow Phaseout", with its horn studded chorus of "why do you do the things you do?" and "Blindfolded", awash in luscious strings and windwoods. There are few times when Phanerothyme loses its momentum, thankfully. It is nearly perfect. The only problem is that it has begun to make me think I ought to go out and purchase a copy of Traffic's John Barleycorn Must Die on CD so I can see if my memory is playing tricks on me. (It could be worse — I could be citing "Berkshire Poppies" rather than "Freedom Rider").

Recommended unabashedly for fans of late '60s/early '70s jazz influenced prog rock and those individuals who think recordings and recreational chemicals are the same thing. Gets a strong headphone alert, too.

Shona Winfrey