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El Goodo

Coyote

(Grease; US: 13 Jan 2009; UK: Available as import)

Hazy, psychedelic British pop meets Western honky-tonk in the darkly rich Coyote.  El Goodo, a five-piece of multi-instrumentalists (Pixy, Jason, Lewie, Matty and Elliott) from South Wales, recreates sounds from the Byrds, the Beach Boys, and surf pop, adding a sinister and foreboding urgency underneath the songs.  The cowboy bass-lines and giddy-up drumming of such songs as “I Saw Her Today” collide with minor chord progressions and ghostly falsetto vocal harmonies for a brilliant mix.  The Super Furry Animals, whose Cian Ciaran mixed the record, plucked them from their countryside home to serve as opening band on several UK tours in 2005, but now El Goodo are hitting their moment. 


The driving force behind the initial track, “Feel So Fine”, envelops the listener in a trance with its penetrating cadence and mysterious feedback.  The layering of male falsetto voices builds in intensity as the song progresses, with each refrain more and more fervent and emphatic. 


Some of the sounds on the album feel directly lifted from 1960s and 1970s stoner rock and British psychedelic pop.  In this way, the album seems to span several iconic moments in psychedelic rock.  “Be My Girl” has a similar swagger to the Who’s “Magic Bus”, while maintaining a punk rock delivery. “Pete” is just like the Ringo-penned “Octopus’ Garden”.  On that song, spoken words with a thick, intercom-processed British accent lie above sousaphone-stained beats and bubbling synthesizers.  Some of the borrowed sound bytes are nods to current music, like the “ooga chakka” in “Talking to the Birds”, perhaps lifted from David Hasselhoff’s “Hooked on a Feeling”.  Incidentally, the most sonically pleasing moment in the album occurs later in “Talking to the Birds”.  A bass-line reminiscent of the Monkees’ “Last Train to Clarksville” propels the song’s easy-going vibe.  At one point the music slows to a drawn-out violin weeping against a plucking vocal technique and various angelic pitches of vocals.  The voices and sliding guitar become one and the same, indivisible.


The album’s vintage and frosty sound comes in part from instruments used during the 1960s.  The haze of the instruments helps the album feel like a soundtrack to a forgotten Western movie, screened in an abandoned theater.  Since the album was produced in a deserted theater, songs like the spaghetti-Western-like “I Saw Her Today” have an extra mystery about them.  Strings and horns complete the soundscape.  The organ floating atop the frenzy is a Vox Continental, introduced in 1962, built as a replacement for organs like the Hammond B3.  The rest of the murky sounds come from a 1960s Ludwig psychedelic drum kit, a 1960s Hofner bass, and the same amp the Beatles used, a Vox AC30.  The recording was also made on vintage gear, using analog tape.


The dirge-like “I Only Dream” finishes the album.  Slow, martial drums, punctuated with a tambourine, support dissonant and vacuous wails and moans as the separate choruses of men and women obsessively proclaim, “I only dream of you”.  A prog rock mish-mashing of vocals, feedback, and processed electronics erupts into the end of the disc.  A space of nothing sits for nine minutes before the “bonus track” begins: a fuzzy organ and distant vocals, a sampling of the harmonies used throughout the album, with “don’t worry Marie” repeated over and over.

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