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The Lazily Spun - The Lazily Spun

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Artist: The Lazily Spun

Album: The Lazily Spun

Label: Camera Obscura

Review date: Jun. 11, 2003

The Well-Mannered Psychedelic

Named for the webs spun by spiders under the influence of LSD, Britain's Lazily Spun have assembled an odd and unexpected stylistic mix on their first actual album (after forming in the mid-90s and crafting a well-distributed demo, the group temporarily disbanded). The songs here run the gamut from studio collage experimentation to ambitious psych-guitar head-spinners to hazey pop songs, acoustic folk, and overly well-mannered adult pop. Not surprisingly, the album's range may make it rare for a listener to enjoy its entirety.

First the centerpiece of the album: "Psurreality Psong", over 14 minutes long, leads the listener through a series of 'movements', dominated by studio trickery and sound collage that thankfully has some clear direction behind it rather than being random drop-ins. The surprise is that six minutes in, after the sound effects have twisted your head around, a pop song drops in to say hello for a while, complete with smooth vocals. The sonic fun doesn't stop, though, as sounds filter in, eventually overwhelming the song and pulling the listener back into a dimension of sound collage.

One of the other highlights of the album is "Non-Ionic Surfactants," perhaps the most rocking song on the album, with strong punk-psych energy and a raga-like lead guitar. The final eight-minute piece, "Blue Mask of Pan," is another strong one. It begins with slowly-pulsing bass, chiming bells, and weird vocal effects until out-there fuzz guitar and burbling keyboards pull it into a true psych-jam. Oddly, it later turns into a tribal drum hoe-down with thick noises that, who knows, are either guitar or keyboards, or perhaps both.

On the down side, I found that the more straightforward songs tended to start out well, with a well-bred combination of guitars, studio effects, and rhythm section, but something about the vocals pulls the songs out of the sideways psych-pop zone and into an adult contemporary feel. "My Alibi," for example, is a slow ballad with nice bell-like guitars and a pleasant enough lead, but Matt Woolham's vocals take it into an area that reminds me uncomfortably of, say, Chris Isaack. "New Kneads" is perhaps the worst offender here, a very lush and pro-sounding piece that could easily get play on the local adult contemporary rock station here alongside the likes of Train.

When the instruments gel, though, like on "Neither Dreaming," the vocals can't take away from their momentum. That song's wah-guitar, locked in with the solid bass and drums, pulls it forward at a head-nodding pace. When the old-school keyboards lend their psychedelic feel to things, the song can't be stopped. Likewise on "Doziac Escapes," the initial percussion opening and backwards guitar is promising, and the vaguely Mediterranean feel of the song, with the bass and precision lead guitar following each other, works well.

Too often, though, these songs have an uncomfortably over-polished sheen to them that is at war with the playful sound effects and studio tricks. It's as if half of the group is having fun with the possibilities of a psychedelic studio while the other half wants to write chart-topping crooners. Given the intriguing elements that weave throughout the album, it's a shame that the former half didn't get their way. As it is, I just keep hearing the interesting bits until they get submerged beneath a well-mannered exterior.

By Mason Jones

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