Three Tasty Pop Teasers From Agony Aunts
When I was young, the prospect of listening to anything by a band that called itself as a “Bay Area supergroup” would have been an aural horror show in the making. Journey was “Bay Area music” back then. Emerson, Lake & Palmer was a supergroup. Heck, Journey consisted of former members of Santana and The Steve Miller Band. It was a “Bay Area supergroup” all by itself.
But time marches on. I’ve lived in the Bay Area for the past fifteen years.
Agony Aunts bills itself as a “Bay Area psych-pop supergroup.” It features members of The Corner Laughers and The Orange Peels, among others. The first two lines of The Corner Laughers‘ song, “Chicken Bingo” — “They asked us where we came from, we said San Francisco/They asked again, we said outer space” — is noted as my “favorite quotation” on Facebook. The circle becomes complete.
Agony Aunts‘ 2010 release, Greater Miranda, is a delectable concoction of sunshine pop, power pop, chamber pop and bubblegum pop, punctuated by occasional psychedelic flourishes and anchored by quizzical lyrics like “[h]e flaunts a billion fortunes and sleeps with frayed eyes split.” Whatever that means, it sure sounds great. The whole record is also beautifully sung and filled to the brim with glistening male-female harmonies. They get special props for constructing a one-minute plus piece of meringue, “RB & YM,” around five words (“Rob Black and your money”) and a bunch of “buh, buh, buhs.” Not taking things too seriously is a major virtue on this blog.
The band recently dropped three songs in advance of the November issuance of their next long player, Big Cinnamon. They’re just as good as anything on Greater Miranda.
The lead track, “Twenty-four Mergansers” is 100% hook until about the 1:38 mark. That’s when a synth that would have made Emerson, Lake & Palmer proud back in ’71 takes over, followed by a wall of cascading guitar sound. Calm is soon restored, however, to allow the hooks to lead the way home:
“Family Drugs” sticks a swaying, almost laid-back mid-70s arrangement around a song about bottling up “spaniel rage.” Its all sewn together by those perfect male-female harmonies.
“We Got The Jekyll” is a more straight ahead (at least for them) mid-tempo rocker about dealing with one’s demons, or so it seems because “the Lord will provide you with endless supplies of dirt.” It closes with some more 70’s-sounding synth work fighting with demonic laughter for center stage:
Based on these early teasers, Big Cinnamon promises to deliver big when it is released in full this fall. I have made my peace with “Bay Area music” and “supergroups.”