Music Reviews

The Orange Alabaster Mushroom

Space and Time: A Compendium of The Orange Alabaster Mushroom

Hidden Agenda/Parasol

Greg Watson has played in some Canadian bands you’ve probably never heard of, The Fiends and The 14th Wray among them. Back in 1991, he decided he didn’t need anyone else to make the music in his head, and recorded several Nuggets-style garage/psych songs all by himself (except on one, but let’s not quibble) under the name The Orange Alabaster Mushroom. These songs eventually found their way into the hearts of some European dudes who run really obscure labels. They asked for more, so he recorded more in 1998 and 1999. This collection of the OAM’s collected works came out last year on vinyl, and now it’s on CD with bonus tracks.

And it’s really fun. Unlike some other let’s-see-how-well-we-can-mimic-the-sound-and-lyrical-sensibility of mid-to-late-‘60s-psychedelia projects like The Dukes of Stratosphear (XTC in disguise) and all those Elephant 6 people, the OAM shoots for one style and hits it solidly. This really does sound like the greatest hits album of a real grungy Northern California band, complete with fuzzy-ugly guitars and harpsichord solos and high nasal tenor voices singing ridiculous lyrics with great style and love. On this record, a song called “Ethel Tripped a Mean Gloss” really is about Ethel tripping a mean gloss. And everyone really needs a CD with a song titled “Sydney’s Electric Headcheese Sundial,” don’t they?

But it’s not all kitsch. Watson is pretty skilled at crafting hooks and making even the silliest song resonate. You’ll never forget the chorus to “Your Face is in My Mind” or “Gone,” and “Crazy Murray” is so unattractively perfect that you’ll use it to clear the room at parties. It’s not authentic, but your friends will swear it is if you don’t tell them. So don’t tell them.

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