The Left Outsides - All That Remains - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Left Outsides - All That Remains

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2018-05-21
The Left Outsides - All That Remains
The Left Outsides - All That Remains

Todd Rundgren’s Utopia had an album called. Oops! Wrong Planet. Well, the very first track on this record made me exclaim Oops! The wrong planet, the wrong record store, and the wrong album. “The Unbroken Circle” sounds like a great song from the B-52’s, those curators of all things hippy-hippy-shake cool. But this is The Left Outsides, a band with a penchant for the psych folk music of England’s by-gone days of the 70’s. And there’s nary a folk tune, Morris dance, any reference to the Cecil Sharp House, and not even a whiff of anything found in the pages of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy in this opening cut.

And it’s a wonderful first song that grabs that acid folk stuff by the throat and yanks it into relevance. Of course, there’s a heavy fuzz guitar that weighs the music down with a punch from the past. But this is something that is quite different from their usual fare. As Pye Hastings of Canterbury’s Caravan fame once sang, Surprise, Surprise.

The next song, “Naming Shadows Was Your Existence,” is live-wire folk with a sharp Eastern vibe. Again, it’s everything old that is suddenly new. The fuzz guitar Eastern tone recalls the sublime early records by Jade Warrior. This is a heavier sound for the band. Alison Cotton’s vocal is Maddy Prior gorgeous. There are ancient shadows in the song, similar to “Drink Down the Moon” from Steeleye Span’s Now We Are Six album.

And then “The Ballad of Elm Tree Hill” is slow, deliberate, and passionate folk music. Ah, “The seasons change/The raven calls.” There’s nothing really psych about this tune. And it recalls the beauty of (the great) Richard Thompson’s song “Farewell, Farewell.” And by the way, the viola playing is lovely.

But, as we all know, acid folk can neither be created or destroyed. Just like the DNA stuff, it skips a generation, so to speak, only to resurface in spades in the next tune. And sure enough, “Down to the Waterside,” with vocals by Mark Nicholas, floats downstream in a slow summer acid folk daze. Time is hazy, Lucy is still in the sky with diamonds, and Alison’s harmony vocals add to the melting beauty of the melody.

But then…Surprise, Surprise again (and again). “Clothed in Ivy, Obscured by Dust” comes out rockin’ like, perhaps, The Who’s “Pinball Wizard,” replete with Townshend’s dramatic guitar flourish. The next tune, “All Those I Danced with Are Gone” is yet another sudden change as it again slows the pace, and reveals an absolutely beautiful melody, which is duly matched by the next song, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” whose lyric is based on, I believe, the short story of the same name by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The viola, piano, eerie guitar, and vocal delivery do justice to the original story’s sad psychological tragedy of an isolated woman in a room with wallpaper that becomes her reality.

Now, true confession: I really enjoyed The Left Outsides’ album The Shape of Things to Come. The band (which is incidentally the husband wife duo of Alison Cotton and Mark Nicholas with assorted friends) has a legacy of well-played highly melodic records with really nice cover art. But this album really ups the ante. It’s a beauty. And high drama and passion are cut into the grooves. The title song, “All That Remains,” is heavy, intense, deeply melodic, and down-right spooky. This one stretches the darkness, bumps into a tense guitar solo, and then slowly drips into silence.

Yet, despite everything, this never really stops being anything other than a great folk-rock record.

The last song, “Take Me Home Again,” enters with bird sounds, and it slowly throbs with a friendly melody. A big warm guitar bids adieu, and then it all returns to the beginning, and surrenders softly to the sound of those singing birds.

And that’s a wonderful ending note to any album.

My friend, Kilda Defnut, says that all great art must bloom from folk roots. I think she’s right. I mean, rock music without the blues is nothing more than a long-forgotten Boy George Culture Club single. But she also talks about music, ritual, Carl Jung, psychology, archetypes, and collective unconsciousness. Now, I don’t know anything about that stuff, but I just think this is an album that makes a lot of sparks, sparks that rekindle the embers of a deep past and still burn on the tips of historical candles, lit just today, as a votive belief in folk music, rock ‘n’ roll, Kilda’s love of Carl Jung’s psychology, and the simple beauty of a well-played and very melodic set of tunes.

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