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 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.”