Who would you ask to write the text book on latter day musical psychedelia? Olivia Tremor Control? Sure, they have the Beatle variety circa 1967 down pat, but that’s just one small, albeit mighty important, corner of the psychedelic universe. Well, Essex Green has written that text book and it’s called Everything Is Green.
Kicking things off in Southern California environs, “Primrose” positively reeks of the Mamas and the Papas trademark harmonies, while a swirling organ recalls Ray Manzarek’s distinctive contribution to the Doors, or even Rod Argent’s early psychedelic efforts with the Zombies.
Proving the case that psychedelia wasn’t invented in the Summer of Love (1967) or even in 1964 with the Zombies’ “She Not There,” “Saturday” seems entrenched in a long-ago bygone era as an olde Renaissance faire tune. In fact, I would argue English Renaissance-era folk music may well have been the first Western flowering of psychedelia. Kudos to the band for looking beyond the brutally obvious Sgt. Peppers for inspiration.
Don’t think Everything Is Green is overly serious though—text book it may be, predictable and formulaic it is not. “Big Green Tree” is downright bizarre and really funny to boot, in a “what the hell am I laughing at” kinda way. Flutes and a bit of mariachi bolster virtually nonsensical lyrics about a—what else?—“big green tree.”
It’s not until “Sixties” (song number nine) that the long-awaited sitar finally turns up. You just know it has to as some point. What makes “Sixties” a surreal experience is that the sitar supports a John Denver-sounding vocal. Oh well, I guess “Rocky Mountain High” can be considered psychedelic in some quarters.
“Sun” is the lone misstep on Everything Is Green. Really weak lyrics such as “when the sun goes out / you better have a lot of candles” are both stupidly obvious and lack a sense of humor. Meanwhile, the doom and gloom mood mixed with the Oingo Boingo-style arrangements and children’s vocals stick out like a sore thumb on this mostly upbeat record.
Still, that’s a very minor point and “Sun” is conveniently tucked in towards the end of the record. All in all, Everything Is Green adds up to a minor masterpiece of almost staggering scope. And The Essex Green refreshingly honor all their musical heroes while staking out their own unique place within the indie pop universe.