PG Six – Starry Mind review

Electric folk with subtly complicated jams. Doesn’t really sound of this era, which is part of what makes it interesting–it’s refreshing to listen to an old-sounding record and know that it’s from today. One song is called “Wrong Side of Yesterday.” True, this record sounds more 1960s than 2010s, but it also sounds more San Francisco than New York, which is where he’s from.

“January” is an Irish traditional, but the way they jam on it sounds very much like the Grateful Dead, the quintessential hippie Californian band. This song fits the album’s cover, a landscape scene viewed by some psychedelic somebody dreaming of old English kings and knights. The lady down in front looks like some horny-toad librarian that hallucinations have turned regal and armored.

PG Six spends the entire album with one foot planted amid 21st century ordinary things and the other ankle-deep in trippy, archaic dreamy stuff. “Letter” is about pretty much what it sounds like–“I wrote a letter / to try and speak my peace / to try and set things straight”–while “Palace” details the hanging gardens he and his true love walk through… in his mind, man! It is all awesomely jammy, with the exception of “Days Hang Heavy,” wherein he retreats from the album cover’s green field into his house as it starts to rain, standing in the kitchen by the window and looking out, with only the gray light filtered through the dark clouds. All the songs are good, but that one and “Talk Me Down” are particularly moving.

With psychedelic music the lyrics generally aren’t what’s important, but as with the Grateful Dead, PG Six’s lyrics are full of pleasant surprises that can grab you even if you’re not listening closely. Thematically, the contrast between the psychedelic stuff and the ordinary stuff is cool. It’s as if when his head comes down below the clouds he just can’t latch onto anything substantive enough to fill him up. “Wrong Side of Yesterday” finds him sober, unable to help contemplating the years during which “all the girls I knew [became] strangers.” It is certainly a melancholy album, though you might not guess it just listening to the jams.

Of course, the emphasis here is on the times when he’s feeling low and needs drugs to rise above it. This album isn’t any kind of comment on the long-term effect of psychotropics. It’s just a slice of his life. What he wants to tell us about is his starry mind; the fact that sometimes little messages from his sober self slip in to the story, and that they’re not very happy, isn’t supposed to make us question the rest of the album. Least I don’t think so.

Here’s something interesting: the whole second half is like a come-down. Notice how much softer it ends compared to how it began. The last song is in the same key as the first and has the same guitar tone and everything–clearly it’s meant to be a bookend. But it’s soft and quiet and slightly sad–that’s the progress he’s made over the course of the album.

This is worth a listen if you like psychedelic rock.

By Nathan Caldwell

"Fabulous in Flannel" I am a working class butch who keeps it all barely together by making movies.

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