Music Reviews
Volcano Suns

Volcano Suns

The Bright Orange Years

All Night Lotus Party

Merge Records

Thirtysomething record nerds rejoice! The Bright Orange Years and All Night Lotus Party, the first two Volcano Suns albums are finally available on CD.

Volcano Suns never seemed to get the recognition they deserved. Formed by former Mission of Burma drummer Peter Prescott, to many the band was the definition of indie rock. Of course, this was years before indie rock meant a fascination with Brian Wilson, beards, and children’s choirs, and actually described music that was on independent labels and, you know, rocked.

The first album, The Bright Orange Years, shows the band harnessing punk energy to a pop sensibility. Melodic rockers like “Jak” and “Slivertone” share space with the balladish “Balancing Act.” Songs like “Descent into Hell’s” sped-up, jangly pop and Prescott’s yelps and the band’s overall enthusiasm turn the chorus of “I should have known it would always be this way” from mopey-on-paper to fist pumping, while referencing both the REM-sounding college rock of the time and the earlier hardcore scene.

Actually, Peter Prescott’s yelps and screams deserve a special credit of their own. These are not the tormented Nick Cave “this is the end of the world” screams heard on that live Birthday Party CD, or the anguished screams of hardcore or even the “it’s time to party” David Lee Roth rock screams. No, Prescott’s yelps are more of a sort of ramshackle, “hey, we’re playing our hearts out here for you” energy that is just so goddamn appealing that you can’t help but smile every time he belts one out. All Night Lotus Party is a bit better-produced than the debut, leading off with “White Elephant,” a song featuring a great distorted guitar riff at its center, which really should have been a college radio staple. Actually, “Blown Stack” or “Village Idiot” should have been all over the airwaves also. The extras on All Night are probably better than Orange, with the super catchy “Polythene Pam/Greasy Spine” starting things off, along with amped-up versions of “Journey to the Center of the Mind” and um… Leonard Nimoy’s “Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” and Spinal Tap’s “Jazz Odyssey.” In fact, if you left off “Superhappyfunmysterybonustrack2009,” the 10 bonus tracks included would make a pretty decent album on their own. Songs as good as “Big Sky” had no right to languish unheard for all these years.

Will these reissues win over any converts or just make a bunch of record geeks happy? Either way, anyone with an ear for catchy melodies and the power of rock should check these out.

Merge Records:

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