It’s pretty easy to get the feeling that Matthew Smith, mastermind behind Detroit psych-pop outfit Outrageous Cherry, is one of those folks for whom music is life. Besides fronting Outrageous Cherry for the past decade and playing with alt-country mainstays the Volebeats for the past 15 years, he has produced records for the likes of the Go, Kim Fowley, and Slumber Party, and appeared on records by bands such as Saturday Looks Good to Me and His Name Is Alive. While this could point to restlessness as much as music obsession, the fact that he takes the time in his band’s bio to name the brand of fuzz pedals they use (Ibanez and D.O.D., for those of you that are curious) was the clincher.
His constant activity brings to mind former Apples in Stereo/Elephant 6 busybody Robert Schneider, and the similarities don’t end there. Both of them share a receding hairline and the questionable facial hair that often accompanies it, but more importantly a deep-seated love for late ‘60s psych-pop. And like Schneider, Smith’s love of that music is so fervent that Outrageous Cherry’s entire career is essentially a homage to the mind-bending tunesmiths of yesteryear.
Our Love Will Change the World
US: 8 Feb 2005
UK: 21 Feb 2005
Our Love Will Change the World certainly leans more toward the “pop” side of the psych-pop equation, and it’s a welcome development. Only two albums ago Smith was packing nearly 80 minutes worth of material on to The Book of Spectral Projections, a gross miscalculation of how much Outrageous Cherry people can take in one sitting. This time it’s a much more concise 37 minutes, and just as importantly the songs themselves are more focused. Smith has never had problems writing memorable hooks, but there’s been a tendency for them to take a backseat to meandering psychedelic guitar jams. Save for the record’s lone group composition, “Detroit Blackout”—which is actually much grittier sounding than the prog-flavored jams of the recent past—the jamming is thankfully kept to a minimum, and hooks reign supreme.
“Pretty Girls Go Insane” might not be the most representative song from the album, as the ascending trumpet blasts featured here don’t appear anywhere else, but it sets the blueprint: fuzzy guitars, a chugging drumbeat, Smith’s delightfully trite lyrics (“What makes a pretty girl go out of her mind / Is it the simplest gestures or the words you can’t find?”), and a hook that would make Sandy Koufax blush. Surely not the most groundbreaking combination, but just as surely one that’s proven to be immensely enjoyable when left in the hands of someone as capable as Smith.
While Smith is clearly running this operation, drummer Carey Gustafson deserves considerable credit for making this a memorable record. Using only a snare, floor tom, and tambourine, her primal beats give each song a strong, propulsive backbone and keeps the listener from getting lost in the swirling twin-guitar attack of Smith and Larry Ray. Using a basic kit requires her playing to be especially precise and it’s a challenge she’s more than up to. Gustafson’s vocal contributions also shouldn’t be overlooked. Smith doesn’t need much help carrying the melody in these songs, and as a producer he knows just how much reverb and multitracking his voice needs. But when Gustafson doubles up with him, such as on the chorus of the title track, it creates a sensation similar to the one the New Pornographers produce when Neko Case joins Carl Newman.
“Unless”, “Trouble Girl”, and “What Have You Invented Today?” are basically interchangeable variations on the standard theme, but it doesn’t make them any less enjoyable. Smith’s attention to detail is too great to let each one sound exactly the same, so he adds some always-welcome egg shakers to “Unless” and sets a whirring, futuristic-sounding synth line over “Trouble Girl”. OK, he does the same thing on “What Have You Invented Today?” It doesn’t really matter. The involuntary head-nod that comes along with listening to it—and indeed the majority of this album—is sign enough the primary goal has been accomplished.