“Audience Is Listening,” the opening track of The Marshmallow Coast’s latest offering, Marshmallow Coasting, may be the most bizarre mini-intro ever committed to disc. The 35 second instrumental features a brisk, redundant piano arpeggio with someone singing “da, da, da” with the melody through a kazoo, into the back of a running fan. It is at this point that the listener has a decision to make; whether to proceed or run for the hills.
The Marshmallow Coast is the brainchild of Andy Gonzales of the Athens, Georgia band, Of Montreal. And while he is helped out judiciously by his bandmates on his sophomore release, Marshmallow Coasting, make no mistake about it, this is Gonzales’ baby.
Marshmallow Coasting is not a big budget record by any means. As a matter of fact, it sounds like it was recorded in his garage and the production quality leaves little to be desired. But further investigation reveals that the guy is a fairly talented songwriter. And what about his influences? It’s evident that Gonzales has subsisted on a heavy diet of Pet Sounds/Sunflower-period Brain Wilson and enough ’60s psychedelic music to provide Wavy Gravy a fairly descent buzz. Not only are his arrangements reminiscent of Wilson, he also employs a variety of instrumentation like his mentor, such as fluglehorn, violin, marimba, various sound effects and even a singing saw. While songs like “Lilypad,” “Hung Up,” “Golden Harp” and the album’s most impressive cut, the Zombie-fied “Blow My Mind” would have made quite a splash in the summer of ’67, gaining acceptance from an MTV-drenched mainstream audience could be a tough task.
If there is a downside to the record it would Gonzales’ vocals. While his nasally, Peter Noone-ish pipes compliment several of his more cartoonish numbers like “Lil’ Fun Machine” and “Shimmering in a Bulb of Glass,” it completely soils his best tracks like the acoustic ballad, “Loneliest Heart in Texas” and the aforementioned “Blow My Mind.”
All in all, there is something carefree, innocent and childlike about Marshmallow Coasting that makes it not only a fun record to listen to, but strangely endearing at the same time. But it will require more than just a cursory listen for that feeling to be evoked. But when it hits, you’ll be glad that you didn’t opt for the hills when you had the opportunity.