Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Grasshopper & The Golden Crickets - Silver Balloons

(Beggars Banquet, 1998)

Recorded during Mercury Rev’s quasi-breakup after See You on the Other Side, Grasshopper’s solo record essentially sounds like a disjointed vomiting forth of all of the ideas the band had toyed with up through that point – noisy freakouts, dreamy fuzzcrunch, jazzy mothball-pop, relatively straightforward “Something For Joey”-esque alt constructions, and even some evidence of an interest in mid-’90s electronica (a questionable road that was also walked by Jonathan Donahue around the same time – check the outtake “Serpentine,” his cover of “Bring in the Year 2000,” and his work with the Chemical Brothers). While not quite the missing link between early Mercury Rev and the band’s Deserter’s Songs reboot, it’s a pleasant enough album that demonstrates the breadth of Grasshopper’s interests while remaining tethered to the M Rev porch thanks to Suzanne Thorpe’s familiar flute. “Silver Balloons,” the keep-it-simple single, is the LP’s only real contender for radio play, its spaced-out, rudimentary keyboard and looped drums sounding like Spectrum meets Ultra Vivid Scene – fine, disposable candy for anyone who bumps rumps to either of those groups, and certainly better than the likes of “Hudson Line.” The B-sides are the worthless, sound-manipulating, non-song buzz of “The Solar Powered Hornet Beyond the Shadows of Overlook Mountain” and a demo of “Silver Balloons,” which, by subtracting the drums and adding both an electronic pulse and further keyboard burbling, tips it almost completely into the Spectrum-derived category. Must say, I wouldn’t mind seeing Sonic Boom attempt a cover of that song one of these days; he'd likely do it up real nice.

And: I’ve always been tickled that, whether intentionally or not, the cover photo is strangely reminiscent of that of Donahue on the cover of Deserter’s Songs, which was released around the same time. What’s the deal there? Is there one??

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