Beards, Blazers & Glasses: The Electric Soft Parade
It's fitting that the Electric Soft Parade named themselves after The Doors' "The Soft Parade" especially considering the record was the band's most variegated, as Morrison & Co. tried on a mish-mash of styles from jazz to acid rock to the blues to R&B. Of course, "The Soft Parade" was one hot mess, and I suspect that anyone who ever heard it is wary of a band that would take their name from one of the greatest sonic follies ever.
No Need to Be Downhearted, the second album from the Brighton Beach quartet known as The Electric Soft Parade is not a hot mess. In fact, it's a very solid record. However, while No Need has drawn strong praise in some quarters, some critics have griped about its tendency to be all over the place. And to an extent, they're right. With little warning, songs veer from jittery Brit post punk ("Life in the Backseat") to ethereal Flaming Lips space-psych ("No Need to Be Downheart (Pt. 1) to brooding Elliot Smith-like acoustics ("Shore Song/Surfacing.)" But while the album's wide array of influences can be read as artistic uncertainty, I find the wild styles ingratiating and a good way to keep me from getting bored. Because honestly, I like Soft Bulletin and all, but listening to that thing is as good as popping a valium.
Live, The Electric Soft Parade's musical diversity makes a good deal more sense as the group's kinetic live show makes them seem like a poor man's Pink Floyd meets a poor man's Teenage Fan Club. Sure, it's inoffensive Brit psych-guitar pop, but its good inoffensive Brit psych-guitar pop. And while, it's a bit surprising to hear that these guys were nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize in 2002, I'll take them over the Arctic Monkeys any day. Starting out slow, the band gradually worked up up momentum in the course of their 40 minute set, rifling off some fierce guitar solos buoyed by atmospheric stoner keyboards. God knows I'm a sucker for anything remotely stoner rock-oriented and by the end of the set, I was left wanting more. The ESP will be touring all over the US throughout the next month and if you can get to one of their shows, they're certainly worth checking for. At the very least, I can guarantee that they're a hell of a lot better than the other "Soft Parade"
See also Idolator's Praise of the Band
MP3: The Electric Soft Parade-"If That's The Case Than I Don't Know"
MP3: The Electric Soft Parade-"Appropriate Ending"
MP3: The Doors-"The Soft Parade" (left-click)