Pop Life

Reverberations: Bipolaroid’s E(i)ther Or

Saturday night, hit Boondocks for the Reverberation throw-down. Get drunk and dance. If you miss this one, you’ll have to wait until next month, and four weeks is a long time to wait for a proper fuzz fix.

For now, give this record from New Orleans a shot…

Bipolaroid, E(i)ther Or

Bipolaroid unabashedly embraces their devotion to early Pink Floyd and, more so, Syd Barrett’s solo material: Ben Glover’s vocals are inextricable from their Barrett influence. Though dismaying in the immediate, repeat listens reveal both Glover’s and the band’s search for identity in a genre that has few 21st century representatives. Most psyche-rock these days is directly informed by the loose vibe of the 13th Floor Elevators and their spawn, as Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn has gone on to another fate.

Bipolaroid missed the garage-psyche bus (and seem refreshingly unaffected by Elephant 6, except in a few minor circumstances) and have ended up with an aesthetic sense that separates the band from their contemporaries. Were it not for the vocals, “A Day in the Life of a Raincloud” could sound like a Spacemen 3 homage. “Transparent-Make Believe” (also the name of the band’s first record) immediately conjures visions of Opel. “Cucumbersome” is much cooler than its unfortunate name, proving to be one of those songs that is like one big climax from start to finish, featuring organs that add texture while popping above the surface once in a while to dance across the guitar chords. The record’s two weakest tracks are back to back: “Karmic Engines,” four minutes of cymbal crashes with a gentle interlude, neither of which coalesces, followed by “Mouth of Lions,” which never reaches the lofty, epic status it reaches for.

The band is back in a groove on “Father Time He Wastes,” with sounds bursting from every pore. “Hallelujah” continues this trend in a more laid-back fashion, and the record’s best moments are the majestic “Fell Right Out of Bed,” instrumental “The Golden Era,” which is book-ended by noise-play directly reminiscent of George Harrison’s “Art of Dying” sans banshee guitar, and everything that follows.

That final third of the album is impeccable, providing a satisfying close to a record that helps remind us that Syd Barrett’s psychedelic vision still has a faithful and lasting influence on a world where it often seems as though Anton Newcombe might’ve turned it to something that – while also great – is more oblique than some psychedelic fans are seeking. Thankfully, Bipolaroid have musicianship on their side, so what could’ve been a cheesy nod to Syd turns into a worthwhile tribute. E(i)ther Or builds on Transparent Make-Believe in a way that points toward progress, which in this case means injecting one’s self completely into the past in the whole-hearted attempt to birth something both entirely old and entirely new. These guys get it, and E(i)ther Or is another step toward getting it right. – Chris Henderson

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