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Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Apples In Stereo: Science Faire


1) Tidal Wave; 2) Motorcar; 3) Turncoat Indian; 4) Haley; 5) Not The Same; 6) Stop Along The Way; 7) Running In Circles; 8) Hypnotic Suggestion; 9) Touch The Water; 10) Glowworm; 11) To Love The Vibration Of The Bulb; 12) Time For Bed/I Know You'll Do Well; 13) Rocket Pad.

Prior to firmly proving their worthiness with Fun Trick Noisemaker, the Apples (not yet In Ste­reo) entered the market with two EPs, Tidal Wave (1993) and Hypnotic Suggestion (1994), nei­ther of which caused any big fuss. Two years later, out of an obsessive impulse to tidy up (I can relate), they re-released both on one CD, adding three more rarities from various sources to com­plete the picture. The result is Science Faire, an informative, but otherwise useless memento of the band's early days that I mention and discuss out of principle rather than admiration.

If, like mine, your main problem with Fun Trick Noisemaker was the lack of emotion-brewing hooks behind the thick, juicy, happy «applish» guitar sound of the songs, then on these early EPs the problem is squared: the hooks are just as lacking, but the sound is disappointing as well. Not a single whiff of sweet psychedelia, apart from maybe a small bunch of «woman-tone»-based solos; it's all generic distorted indie rock, grovelling before the D.I.Y. altar — and what has that to do with the Apples' consummate professionalism, the only real reason to listen to them?

It is a good thing they only re-recorded two of these songs for the LP, because if all of the songs sounded like tin can demo versions, even the hardcore Apples fan would have to feel cheated. As it is, you can at least concentrate on the modestly interesting process of watching the band grow and mature, from the very lumpy, crude brute-riffs of Tidal Wave to the slightly more exquisite melody shaping and sci-fi touches on Hypnotic Suggestion. The previously unreleased instru­mental 'To Love The Vibration Of The Bulb' is even more interesting — imagine a garage band's first (failed) take on 'King Of The Mountain Hall' or 'Astronomy Domine' with a chunk of 'Misir­lou' inside: I mean, even spirits and aliens must enjoy surfing, mustn't they? And then, finally, one big slab of full-blown psychedelia on the two-part 'Time For Bed', which sounds exactly like one of those lovely multi-part McCartney kiddie-psycho-suites circa 1973, except without even a tenth part of McCartney's musical genius. Never mind, they were still learning.

Without trying to concentrate on the spot-the-changes year-by-year game, though, Science Faire is plain old boring. Maybe the EPs needed more input from original bassist Jim McIntyre, whose 'Touch The Water' is the lightest bit of nostalgic psycho-folk on the album, going easier on the sludge than most other songs (McIntyre is also credited for 'Vibration Of The Bulb'; he split be­fore the band started making it big in order to rule over his own, much less famous, Elephant 6 project Von Hemmling). Or, perhaps, not. But at least it is nice to know that The Apples In Stereo have always been «shiny happy people», even if it took them some time to realize that, if you really want to come across as shiny and happy, it doesn't help much if you borrow your guitars from the Meat Puppets. Thumbs down.

Check "Science Faire" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Science Faire" (MP3) on Amazon

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