The Weed Tree
Heavier on the folk than the freak, Espers’ The Weed Tree is another album from our country’s filthy hippie collective that’s actually good. The success of this album hinges largely on the fact that the band isn’t over reliant on acid trip imagery and put-on eccentricities to enliven their music. Instead, this disc is a collection of very disparate covers hewn to fit the pastoral mold. Mixing selections of the obviously appropriate (Nico, Michael Hurley) with the who’d-have-thought (Blue Oyster Cult, Durutti Column) takes equal measures of talent and courage. It works to excellent effect: Durutti’s “Tomorrow” takes shape as a Bert Jansch-esque rambler and BOC’s “Flaming Telepaths” turns from a florid and floral gypsy epic into electric psychedelica so smoothly the transition is almost seamless. Espers’ refusal to follow their peers in the same slavish devotion to the archaic sound is one of the best things the band has going for it. Electric instruments crop up all over this album; the band isn’t afraid to let synths carry ancient melodies usually belonging to the cello or fiddle. It might not sound remarkably ambitious, but it shows the long-sightedness of Espers that they realize there’s no need to make arcane music the old-fashioned way.