Legalize Everything – Frowning Clouds (Rice is Nice/Saturno)
Do you take album titles at face value? Let's take this legalisation of everything one step further. In an ideal world, we could also frame a law to make listening to worthwhile music compulsory. Frowning Clouds would be one of the first cabs off the rank.
Earlier this year, Frowning Clouds supported Sunnyboys and The Stems at a sold-out theatre show in Sydney. It was a prestigious gig. Among the pre-show chatter at the pub, I heard a comment that Frowning Clouds had been "psychedelised."
Back in the '60s, that would have meant their doors to perception had been ripped off their hinges by a liberal dose of lysergic acid diethylamide or similar hallucinogenic. These days it's as likely to be due to exposure to a case of Cooper's and some old fart's record collection. Or maybe their hard drive.
"Legalize Everything" does show Frowning Clouds have broadened their scope and embraced the studio. They're no longer exclusively residing in low-fi '60s Garageland. They sound like the Freakbeat band your hip English uncle would have frugged to if he had a pocketful of brown bombers and an inkling of where the cool clubs were, back when London was swinging.
"Legalize Everything" never gets self-indulgent, preferring to wrap up its nuggets in succinct, sub-three minute packages. Much of the appeal is about Zak Olsen's unforced vocals and the way his and Nick Van Bakel's guitars duck in and out of the songs. Frowning Clouds retain their lighter touch on their third album without disappearing into the ether. Not surprisingly given their folkish beginnings, a good slice of jangle pop pervades.
Opener "Carrier Drone" is as forceful as it gets while "Move It" is more layered but rocks just as well. Reverb rules the mix in most places. "Dead Growth" strays into indulgent noise and noodling, while "Sun Particle Mind Body Experience" flicks the switch to trippy. There's enough variety to test and/or engage the ear and the tracking makes the record flow nicely.
You get the feeling that as catchy as some of these songs sound at times, the Clouds are making records for themselves. They might pick-up some airplay on enlightened stations but they won't lose sleep if they don't.
This is on vinyl from Rice Is Nice in Australia and Saturno in Europe. Our review copy came as a download and it's not really for optimal listening, with distortion evident on a couple of the louder tracks. So if you consider the download, your experience might be enhanced if you had a turntable.