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Various Artists

Sugar Lumps

(Hard Soul; US: 21 Jun 2005; UK: Available as import)

Fools' Gold

Dirty Record Label Trick #1052: 1) Scrounge up a couple much-sought-after rare tracks that appeal to a specific niche of collectors. 2) Compile them with a dozen not-sought-after-at-all tracks from a completely different era. 3) Give the whole thing a catchy yet opaque subtitle like A Psychedelic Selection of Groovy Movers and Sweet Freakbeat. 4) Proceed to bank.


This one comes to you courtesy of Hard Soul Records and their Sugar Lumps collection. No, Hard Soul is hardly a money-grubbing major label. Just consider it a sneaky kid brother. You see, hardcore psychedelic music fans are obsessive, searching out long-lost classics and one-off 45s like Indiana Jones in a day-glo suit. So much so that they’ve compiled an online list of fake psychedelic bands—like the ones in the fictional Top Ten chart at the record store in A Clockwork Orange. Would you believe that one of the most coveted psychedelic records ever was recorded by one of these fake bands? Well, it was. Maybe. And it’s on Sugar Lumps. Maybe.


The record in question is “Candlelight” by Granchester Meadows, and its story is representative of Sugar Lumps as a whole. “Candlelight” was the A-side of the band’s only single, ostensibly released in 1971. Though no one has ever confirmed it, legend goes that its creator was none other than that most legendary of psychedelic music acid casualties, ex-Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett (Granchester Meadows refers to an area where the Floyds grew up; it’s also the title of a Roger Waters composition on Floyd’s 1969 Ummagumma album). And now the producers of Sugar Lumps have tracked down this “Holy Grail for the Psych record collector”, so you don’t have to.


But wait. According to psych webzine Sweet Floral Albion, Granchester Meadows was a hoax conceived by another fanzine as part of an “A to Z of Psych” feature. So “Candlelight” is a fake, complete with vinyl hiss. Hmm, thought that shuffle rhythm sounded a little too 1990s. And when did Barrett develop a fascination for harmonious, Beach Boys choruses? As the folks at Albion put it, “Records this obvious simply cannot be old”. They’ve even gone so far as to identify a second forgery on Sugar Lumps, by something called the Noel Gilpin Emporium.


So what’s the point of Sugar Lumps, anyway? A joke? Well, it does showcase a few legitimate psych rarities from the 1960s. The Factory’s “Path Through the Forest” is amazing; phased guitars, tinny drums, and detached vocals pointing straight at Joy Division, Spacemen 3, Jesus & Mary Chain, Swervedriver, and any other Brits who made a living with beat-up guitars and wraparound shades. Say it together: Cool, man! The Argonauts’ “Ten Feet Tall” features future Velvet Underground dude Doug Yule; imagine a sweet Loaded-era tune played with scratchy, White Light / White Heat-era attitude, and you’re more than halfway there. And then there’s Rod Stewart during his not-so-lame years, belting out Quiet Melon’s “Early Roller Machine 4444” with Ronnie Lane, Kenny Jones, and Ron Wood. It really sounds more like the Who, which means that, if Sugar Lumps had some kind of a structure, it wouldn’t fit in. No matter. Good tune.


And, oh yeah, that other era? That’d be the 21st Century, from which Sugar Lumps gives you eight or so tracks by today’s “new movers and groovers”. That means Soul Hooligan’s whip-smart “Space Travel”, which sounds like Lee Mavers from the La’s fronting The Creation; and The Evergreen’s “Food for Soul”, an instrumental whose bonkers percussion recalls 1990s UK dance-rock act New Fast Automatic Daffodils. And that’s a welcome reference point, if only because it’s such a cool name to say. The rest is far too self-conscious, winking and saying, “Wasn’t that ‘60s psych music silly? Ah, but it was such fun, too!”


If you can find “Path Through the Forest” and “Ten Feet Tall” legitimately, download ‘em and save some dough. And if you can find the real Granchester Meadows single, snap it up: The dude from Sweet Floral Albion’s offering a cold million.

Rating:

John Bergstrom has been writing various reviews and features for PopMatters since 2004. He has been a music fanatic at least since he and a couple friends put together The Rock Group Dictionary in third grade (although he now admits that giving Pat Benatar the title of "first good female rocker" was probably a mistake). He has done freelance writing for Trouser Pressonline, Milwaukee's Shepherd Express, and the late Milk magazine and website. He currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife and two kids, both of whom are very good dancers.


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