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Colossal Yes - Acapulco Roughs

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Artist: Colossal Yes

Album: Acapulco Roughs

Label: Ba Da Bing

Review date: May. 21, 2006

When Utrillo Kushner isn’t beating the skins in Comets on Fire, he’s busy creating gentle piano rock under the name Colossal Yes. The mellow vibe of Acapulco Roughs, the group’s first effort, could hardly be further removed from the skull-pounding psych of Comets on Fire. Kushner favors a 1970s AM-radio aesthetic, replete with gentle flutes, buttery horns and whispery vocals. Acapulco Roughs does, however, spike the pop punch with a heavy dose of psychedelia that hints at Kushner’s fondness for mind-bending.

While Kushner’s songwriting doesn’t stray too far from what one might expect of piano-pop, the recordings on Acapulco Roughs sound considerably different from their ’70s-era forbears: there’s an offhand, almost sloppy quality to these songs, and the instrumentation is minimal. Most tracks only feature piano, bass and drums. While the instrumental sparseness and low-fi recording give the album a demo-like feel, they also contribute to its otherworldly, ethereal atmosphere. This effect is furthered by Kushner’s vocals – he consistently pushes his thin tenor into the upper end of his range, resulting in a Neil Young-ish angelic quality – and his dense but often unintelligible, somewhat Dylanesque lyrics (“Darken glory’s sway, the tropic of the saints / The widow’s reef lies beneath the sea.”)

Upon first listen Acapulco Roughs seems a bit too homogeneous, and perhaps slightly too restrained and understated to make much of an impression. Its subtleties eventually grow clearer, however, revealing the fine songwriting beneath the unassuming surface. Kushner is adept at breezy pop (“A Fig for Misfortune,” “Just Like a Mademoiselle”) but perhaps more inclined towards the epic, as evidenced by the 11-minunte plus “Poor Boy’s Zodiac.” While not without its own kind of grandeur, Kushner’s brand of epic is loose, meandering, and sprawling – more “Cowgirl in the Sand” than “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The laid- back breeziness of Acapulco Roughs may, experienced under certain conditions, induce drowsiness, but more as result of tranquil pleasure than of boredom. While the gentle subtleties of Colossal Yes are hardly what one would expect from a Comets on Fire side project, Kushner and Co.’s album is a very pleasant surprise, and one of the finest debut efforts so far this year

By Michael Cramer

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