the stripes to be a crowd

One of my favorite bands is Plasticland. I think part of it is they manage a sort of temporal hat-trick, sounding simultaneously like the music they’re clearly emulating (psychedelia, particularly the Pretty Things circa S.F. Sorrow and, to a lesser extent, Parachute), of the time they recorded (the early ’80s, in the shadow of punkish cynicism), and timeless; or at least for me: I don’t listen to their songs nostalgically but as music powerfully performed, wonderfully and colorfully arranged, and witty enough to avoid the cotton-candy gooishness of too many neo-flowerpower acts, but genuine enough in their affection for the era’s excess to avoid being a mere pisstake. I’m not sure if anyone else will appreciate the comment in the same way, but a comment Glenn Rehse made onstage at one of their periodic reunions a couple years back sums it up. Glancing at the usual tangle of cables and cords cluttering the stage, Rehse campily frowned, turned to the mic, and said, “Ooh – we’re gonna need some conditioner!”

Anyway, another obvious influence on Plasticland is Syd Barrett – so of course, Plasticland had to appear on the Imaginary Records 1987 tribute album (this was, I’m pretty sure, one of the first tribute albums). They cover “Octopus” from The Madcap Laughs – and surprisingly, transform it into an entirely acoustic setting.* (I think they preceded the “unplugged” phenomenon here too.)

Here’s a somewhat obscure track “Enchanted Forestry,” from the EP Let’s Play Pollyanna, released in 1989 on the German Repulsion label. As with nearly every psychedelic waltz-time number ever recorded, there’s a trombone solo.

That solo is played by John Frankovic, who played bass for the most part but is capable on a broad range of other instruments. He’s released a handful of solo recordings, and last year a bunch of them were compiled on an album unpromisingly titled Space Zombie (which – even more unpromisingly – features an illustration of the titular creature on its cover, which seems borrowed from the Museum of Rejected Pulp Sci-Fi Paperback Illustrations). Titled “I Forgot,” it’s an amusing illustration of one’s tendency to space out. Well, some people’s tendencies…for whatever reasons. I like the acoustic instruments filling out the mix on the bridge. Curiously, except for drums, Frankovic plays everything on this track…but the bass, the instrument he’s best known for.

* I had two different versions of this song, both digitized from vinyl. One was a forest of pops and clicks, the other was much better…except for a skip in the middle. So I thought I’d compile a version – except the two were slightly different in pitch and tempo (variable turntable speeds, presumably) and of rather different sonic character. (Digression: what the high hell are turntable fetishists ingesting?) A little speeding up, a little equalizing, and a tiny edit eleven eighth-notes long (along with a couple of cosmetic pop removals) and, voila, a (relatively) clean copy.

Plasticland “Octopus”
Plasticland “Enchanted Forestry”
John Frankovic “I Forgot”


1 Comment

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One response to “the stripes to be a crowd

  1. gomonkeygo

    You summed up my own idea of why Plasticland’s music is so wonderful with a succinct perfection! I’ve been a fan since the release of their early singles and with a friend made a pilgrimage last fall to see them play again and spent the evening afterwards at a wonderful bar (the Circle A, I think), drinking and talking and sharing our love of music. That’s another thing I like about them — they LOVE music and are as fanboyish about their faves as, well, I am. Thanks again.

    aka gomonkeygo

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