Wand - Plum - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Wand - Plum

by Bill Golembeski Rating:10 Release Date:2017-09-22

This is classic rock album territory.  

Now, my friend, Kilda Defnut, once told me, “Every classic rock album must contain a secret meaning, even if it really doesn’t have a secret meaning.”

I agreed and just figured it was something akin to the Loch Ness Monster.

And I think this is a classic record so I really tried. Honestly, I tried really hard to find that illusive Nessie in the deep dark grooves of this music. That initial minute or so of blank noise called “The Setting” seemed like a decent place to start. So I did the obvious by fast forwarding The Wizard of Oz to sync with the 42:26 of the album. I hoped that the blank noise would end and the music proper would begin just as Dorothy gets colorized in the Land of Oz. But that didn’t work because at that point in the film, the nasty lady (who would become the wicked witch and eventually get melted) was still in black and white, and she was still pissing and moaning about Dorothy’s cute little dog, Toto.

So I was stuck to the music: Sure, the influences are there: The Beatles, Radiohead playing like Pink Floyd, Pink Floyd without Radiohead playing like them, Radiohead playing like Radiohead, and even some Robert Fripp Discipline Crimson before they became a big thud and Thrak. Ultimately, though, this is just an incredible record of clever, exciting, and really nice rock music. Downloading one song just isn’t an option.

The greatest gift of the Fab Four Beatles wasn’t their music. Granted, all those tunes changed the world. But they taught us patience: patience to listen for more than three or so minutes; patience to dive into the depths of a lyric; patience to grasp the unity of an album; and patience to sip our beers slowly enough to begin to question the importance of both Yesterday and the prevailing Here, There and Everywhere.

This album does require a bit of that patience.

Now, I was a bit worried because the whole thing starts with that signal to noise nothing called “Setting,” which failed to sync up with the sudden Technicolor Munchkin appearance. Sure it oscillates for one minute, but I was left with that nothing, almost like the blank bovine stare of Lullubelle III on the cover of Floyd’s classic rock album cover for Atom Heart Mother. Thankfully, salvation comes with a Beatles/McCartney like tune called “Plum” that both inhabits the past but also mangles a guitar solo into something like a Jackson Pollock canvas that somehow makes a lot more sense than anything a Jackson Pollock canvas ever managed to say to me.

The song “Bee Karma” rocks with a great riff and is juxtaposed with a dreamy vocal. Yeah, that's a lot like Radiohead. So be it. The next song, “Charles De Gaulle,” starts with a whistle and the song then erupts with both electric and acoustic assemblage which distantly echoes “Crimson and Clover,” but that’s a minor memory in a good song. It’s also a glance backward to the band’s great album ganglion reef which was clouded in a pretty heavy continuous psych vibe. Mr. Radue (aka Jazz Guy) just noted that “There is a lot more space in this record.” He also said that he heard the very modern sound of David Byrne/Brian Eno’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts in the album’s penultimate track “Blue Cloud” that actually does elevate this music into the euphoric Land of Oz (at 5:25 to be exact) and clocks in over seven minutes. It’s not exactly prog rock, but it is a well-arranged extended piece with guitar work that recalls The Wolf People’s wonderful instrumental prowess.

A little bit of that beginning noise ushers the sedate Floyd-like “High Rise.”Jazz Guy’s “space” is very evident with another Beatles vocal that could have been on the second side of Abbey Road. The other acoustically driven tune is “Traps,” and with its “to survive” chorus and background vocal, is absolutely gorgeous. Again, the tranquil Floyd sound manages to somehow float over the (almost country) real estate of the song.  Then “Ginger,” a barely two minute instrumental, is an epilogue. And it’s also a prologue to the before-mentioned epic “Blue Cloud.”

This is classic rock album territory. So I was still looking for that secret meaning.  

 I thought about playing the disc backward so as to hear some hidden message that would probably suggest the usual: you know, worship the devil; or perhaps, some other things even more sinister like President Trump should be re-elected, global warming is a Chinese hoax, or (heaven forbid!) Coldplay is a great rock band. But really, with my minimal computer skills, I’m lucky to send this review off to Soundblab without goofing up, and all I know about compact disc technology is pressing the play button. So that was a non-starter.

That, of course, begs the question: Is it even possible to play a compact disc backward to find that hidden message?

And there are two other songs: “White Cat” is urgent rock music with a dreamy vocal juxtaposed to jagged band interaction. Apparently, Cory, Lee, and Evan added Sofia and Robbie to the band, and this album was honed during many communal sessions. Truly, this record marks a significant growth from the band’s last album 1000 Days (and that was great!). Once again, the guitar work is razor blade sharp with stainless steel precision. The final song, “Driving” is almost gospel as it slowly releases the tension after all the wonderful music. The chorus rises to some sort of truth about dreams, charlatans, rock music, and then there is one heck of a guitar solo that answers most questions without saying a word.

So we are left with the odd elusive classic rock symbolism of the Blue-ish cloud on the cover. I like it as much as 1000 Days’ equally elusive snake charmer painting with the sleepy dog in the upper corner. (But what’s that Roman Numeral II doing in the bottom corner?)

Well, Pink Floyd’s Lullebelle III on Atom Heart Mother might have dropped some funky dung through the years, but she never divulged any secrets (saucerful or otherwise), and that classic cow and the cover that bears her image have never lost their intrigue.

Perhaps the best part of a secret meaning is that it should always be just that—a bit of a secret.

But it’s nice to know people still make this kind of noise. It’s loud music. It’s soft music. And its classic rock music that plays its cards, takes its winning chips, waves at each of us, raises a finger to its lips to suggest a silent secret, and then sincerely thanks everyone for listening.

Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

One of my favourites of the year. Initially I didn’t think it topped Golem but I’m changing my view.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I agree, their previous albums are also great but they have gone up another level with this one. I think this is my album of the year.

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