Hopewell’s second album, The Curved Glass, eliminates some of the noisy jamminess of the debut in favor of greater concision and a stronger pop influence, and does so without neutering the group’s decidedly crunchy sound. Nifty trick! Released as a teaser 7” by a Belgian label, the dense “Small Places” emphasizes a stabbing, rhythmic keyboard loop and Jason Russo’s whispery croon, though there’s still an undercurrent of distorted guitar that erupts between verses and ultimately brings the song to a sudden, crashing close. A bit too simple in its construction and abrupt in its ending, this isn’t one of the album’s best tracks, but that plunk-plunk-plunk loop is at least memorable, and the song effectively points the way towards the band’s more pop/rock-based future. The B-side is the “Egoless Mix” of “Sunny Days,” a lengthy ditty that originally appeared in nearly identical form on the impossible-to-find “Purple Balloon” EP. There’s a rootsy, gently zonked feel to the song that’s reminiscent of ’70s Neil Young crossed with early Mercury Rev – dig that flute – so you can betcha that hazy bliss is pretty much the name of this game (& it is!). Overall, it’s a better-than-decent single, yes, but since you can get both tracks elsewhere with a little searching, there’s no need to pick this one up unless, defying all normal standards of taste, you happen to get off on the ug sleeve art.
And now, as an unrelated postscript, let me become the millionth crybaby to whine that the non-stop rain we’ve been having in New York City this June is utterly miserable. The canceled ballgames, bikerides, picnics, stoopsales, and leisurely strolls… those I can handle. I’ll even tolerate the humidity. No, for me, the final straw came yesterday afternoon, when I was caught in a sudden downpour that splattered with hateful precipitation the Moody Blues LPs I’d just bought at a flea market. Fists a-clenched and a-shaking, I screamed to the cloudy heavens above: Have you, o rain, no sense, no decency?! Water must never, NEVER come into contact with Caught Live +5! Now, please, for the love of Mike Pinder, GIVE US CLEAR WEATHER.