- by Jeff Penczak Rating:7 Release Date:2016-07-17 Label:
Sugar Candy Mountain is the place in George Orwell’s Animal Farm where all animals go when they die to live in harmony and bliss – sort of a like animal heaven. Sugar Candy Mountain is a clothing store in California selling overpriced, handmaid, casual dresses that’ll set you back about £150...apiece. “Sugar Mountain” is a classic Neil Young song about the Peter Pan in all of us that wants to stay, er, young forever. Sugar Candy Taxi is one of beloved cult artists Kevin Coyne’s final albums. Sugar Candy Mountain is also a California-based pop-psych band who engage elements of all of the preceding namesakes on their sarcastically-titled third album. Well, it doesn’t seem to have any satanic verses in it that I can make out.
What it does have, are blissfully harmonious melodies and vocals, big-ticket (e.g., “Spectorish”) wall-of-sound production, playful, childlike humour and innocense, and a few left field detours that Coyne’s fans came to know, love and expect from him. ‘Windows’, for example, sounds like it was recorded for a Sergio Mendes & Brazil ’66 album, all cool breezes, suntanned babes, lilting vocals, and lazy day dream away surfy guitars with just the right amount of fuzz to excite the garage-niks. Then there’s that title track, coochee-cooing its way into your head like an earwwig doing the Samba.
Sean O’Hagan’s Brian Wilson fixation is all over these tracks, with Will Halsey’s freaky keys adding some Stereolab-like effects and weird, goofy wah-wah embellishments that’d make Sun Ra giggle in delight. Not everything works, and the charm wears a little thin after one too many sickly sweet arrangements and breathy, come-hither vocals from Ash Reiter. The sugar rush leads to a sugar crash about the time the too-long-by-half ‘Atlas’ spreads its avant gardistic experimentation and puts clever in front of intelligent. They namedrop Flaming Lips as an influence, but too much of this sounds like a stretch to impress him rather than themselves...and us, resulting in the preponderance of the worst elements of that other Coyne’s wacky imagination.
What we need more of is the Debbie Harry-meets-Nancy Sinatra swagger of ‘Eye On You’ and ‘Who I Am’, the twangy reverb and slutty strut of ’Tired’ (like a surfy Garbage), and a tighter quality control that cuts some of these songs in half – they just go on too loooonnngggg and can leave the impression that the band only had half an album here and resorted to filler to meet their allotted timeframe.
Great review, Jeff. Enjoyed it more than the album.