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Last Days Of May - Inner System Blues

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Artist: Last Days Of May

Album: Inner System Blues

Label: Squealer

Review date: Feb. 27, 2003

As Elusive As Spring In Winter

Writing about Inner System Blues is tricky, because it lacks many of the features usually present on a typical rock record, or even a typical psychedelic rock record. There are no vocals, few melodies (and, by extension, little of the bluesy wank of fellow Squealer psych act Major Stars) and little in the way of contrast. We’re left with a jigsaw puzzle with several pieces missing. Still, Last Days Of May dares you to put it together.

The components of a Last Days Of May song are simple: a simple bass and drum groove, waves of reverbed guitar, and maybe some congas or samples. The occasional THWACK-thwack-thwack attacks from the drums and samples sound like percussion hits on a dub record. The lazy, echoing guitar parts by Karl Precoda, who used to be in the Dream Syndicate (the '80s guitar pop group, not the LaMonte Young drone group) would recall My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive if Precoda's guitar playing had been overdubbed more. Like the guitar work on late-period Bailter Space albums, Precoda’s playing sounds like it’s trying to fill more space than one guitar is capable of filling.

In fact, were it not for its intriguing emotional elusiveness, Inner System Blues would closely resemble Bailter Space’s Solar.3, a loose, awkward and spare psych record that doesn’t feature enough layering to reach the sort of over-the-top bliss-out it yearns to achieve. Unlike Solar.3, though, Inner System Blues hasn’t got all its cards on the table. Inner System Blues doesn’t sound anything like P.I.L.’s Second Edition, for example, but it has a similar puzzling, blank-stare feel. More genre-specific reference points include Disco Inferno’s D.I. Go Pop and The Hair And Skin Trading Co.’s Psychedeliche Musique. Although both of those records are texturally richer than Inner System Blues, they all seem to come from minds that aren’t thinking in the usual way. They leave me wondering exactly why the music’s creators made the aesthetic choices they did, and that’s a wonderful thing.

Unfortunately, Inner System Blues loses steam about halfway through, becoming a rather ordinary psych record by its end. The last twenty-five minutes of the album find the band playing without enough consistency to develop a hypnotic groove or enough contrast to generate surprise. This may have to do with the absence of percussionist Leonard Wishart on the last two tracks. But before that, Inner System Blues is weird, expansive and hard to pin down, as any good psychedelic record should be.

By Charlie Wilmoth

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