Music

Pisces: A Lovely Sight

Be prepared to take a leisurely, tripped-out stroll through inventive, haunting soundscapes and have your hearts, minds and ears warped by some of the most exciting recordings to ever bubble up out of the 1960s psychedelic stew.


Pisces

A Lovely Sight

Label: Numero
US Release Date: 2009-06-02
UK Release Date: Import
Website
Amazon
iTunes

While Haight Ashbury was in full bloom, Laurel Canyon awash with fey folkies and the Sunset Strip a-go-go with guitar bands, Rockford, Illinois was celebrating the opening of a new Chrysler factory. The blue-collar city, situated on the banks of the Rock River and just a short drive from Chicago, was the kind of place the freaks passed through on the road to some other happening somewhere else. Yet, as in every city big or small, if you dug deep enough you'd have found a burgeoning underground music scene turned on to the Beatles and thrashing their guitars along to the Yardbirds and the Who. In fact, at the tail-end of the 1960s, the Forest City had no less than two bands, Fuse and Pisces, toiling away on the toilet-club circuit that would eventually be heard outside the city's limits. Fuse would, by 1974, change their name to Cheap Trick and rock out to mass worldwide audiences. Pisces, apart from three rare-as-hen's-teeth 45s on the local Vincent label, had to wait another 40 years to be heard.

Now, thanks to Chicago crate diggers Numero Group, a reissue label chiefly known for their excellent ongoing "eccentric soul" series, we can all have our hearts, minds and ears warped by some of the most exciting recordings to ever bubble up out of the 1960s psychedelic stew. With unfettered access to the master tapes, which have been carefully stored away in founding member Jim Krein's basement ever since the band's studio burnt down, Numero has compiled a "best of" 15-song collection entitled A Lovely Sight. It takes a leisurely, tripped-out stroll through inventive, haunting soundscapes of psychedelic pop playfulness, crepusclar garage punk and a handful of bewitching bluesy, psych-folk numbers -- the latter menacingly breathed into life by a 17-year-old singer called Linda Bruner who'd initially gone to Krein for guitar lessons.

By the time Bruner had joined the band in 1969, however, Pisces was down to only two members, guitarist Krein and keyboard player Paul DiVenti. And like the Beatles before them, only on a far smaller budget (which they supplemented by recording local acts and jingles), they had retreated into their studio and given up playing live. Nevertheless, it appears that, audience or no audience, Krien and DiVenti's imaginations burnt brighter than the devil's own lava lamp.

Opener "Dear One" casts a tambourine-wielding spell, as Bruner enchants with a tale of spectral love. Song number two, "Children Kiss Your Mother Goodnight", is a slow burner to the dark side where a keyboard-induced lullaby turns downright creepy, with the brooding denouement: "Your mother is leaving on the midnight flight / Children your mother's going to die tonight". The dreamy folk rocker "Say Goodbye to John" sees the protagonist march off to his death. Even the standout track sung by Bruner, "Sam", a pleading tale of unrequited love, is full of menace as her voice strains to be heard over baleful throbbing bass and oscillating psych-organ.

There is the odd tune, however, when Pisces' musical experimentalism gets the better of them, such as the "Revolution No 9"-inspired shenanigans of "Mary" and the early prog-like spoken-word self-indulgence of "Genesis II". But, as the cliché goes, you can't make an omelette this tasty without breaking a few eggs. Otherwise, how on earth would they have come up with a wonderful pop song like "Motley Mary Ann", which sounds as if the Hollies are being backed by a Jamaican sound system with the bass ratcheted up to 10? This release of A Lovely Sight means one less lost classic is waiting to be unearthed.

8

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image