The Photon Band

The Photon Band

Oh, the Sweet, Sweet Changes


Author Larry Niven theorizes that unusual patches of fog are the result of an intersection of parallel universes, entire timelines that are similar but never identical. Every time I hit a 3 AM quilt of fog on the coastal stretches of I-95, I think of that, and this particular night was no exception. Usually, I give the matter just a cursory nod of recognition and get back to the task of divining the road ahead.

This night, I emerged on the other side as usual, probably trailing a couple of wisps of fog like cotton banners from a newlywed car. The thought was a bit eccentric, but it seemed to fit in with the unrecognizable stream of oldies the radio was playing. Every once in a while, I’ll drive through some region containing its fair share of local hits, unheard outside the area. But most of this stuff, while sounding fairly familiar, was not at all recognizable.

The first unusual sign came when the DJ announced the top of the hour, and the station’s call letters. Five of them — WIXAZ. Then the smooth on-air voice backannounced the songs it had just played, rattling out familiar names and unfamiliar titles as if it played this stuff day after day, years on end. Beatles, Everly Brothers, the Who, Buddy Holly… the artists matched the songs, but I’d never heard these tracks. Not as singles, album cuts, B-sides, studio outtakes, bathroom demos, never. Ahead a sign loomed. “NEXT EXIT: 43 km.”

The Photon Band’s particular style of retro comes so close to its influences as to be termed “repro.” Their sound is as modern as anything else out there, yet it sounds as if its entire inspiration and sensibility is borrowed from the most influential acts of the ’60s and ’70s. But rather than coming off as tired and derivative, the band delivers those lost tracks we wish existed, that one lost song from the White Album or The Kids are Alright. Is the Photon Band behind the times, or were those artists ahead of theirs? Play it again, it doesn’t matter. Good music is timeless.

Darla Records, 625 Scott #301, San Francisco, CA 94117;

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