The Sunshine Fix: Green Imagination

Patrick Schabe

The Sunshine Fix

Green Imagination

Label: spinART
US Release Date: 2004-08-03
UK Release Date: Available as import

Nearly a decade after the original Elephant 6 collective began to make a name for itself by reinvigorating the world of psychedelic pop, the collective's shadow still looms large. While some of the original acts in this grouping have stuck to their guns and continue to make together (The Apples in Stereo, Of Montreal), others have gone their disparate ways (Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control). And while the various musicians who first came coalesced in Athens, Georgia, have, for the most part, continued to fly the banner of psychedelic indie pop, it's been hard for new projects to escape the gravitational pull of Elephant 6's reputation, at least as grounds for comparison.

For Bill Doss, one of the co-founders of the Olivia Tremor Control, the escape vehicle has been his new band, the Sunshine Fix. Despite being on board for two of the most critically acclaimed psych-pop albums of the past 20 years, Dusk at Cubist Castle and Black Foliage, the main thrust of the Sunshine Fix has been away from the sometimes obtuse head-scapes of the OTC, concentrating instead on more song-oriented traditional pop.

Green Imagination, the Sunshine Fix's second full-length, following 2001's Age of the Sun, harkens back to basic pop formulas more than anything else, although retaining some touches of the often trippy worldview of the '60s and '70s that informed the Elephant 6 bands. While critics noted that Age of the Sun managed to tie in plenty of the experimental nodes that made the Olivia Tremor Control so diverse, it was also frequently pointed out that Doss seemed to be the pop traditionalist of the group. This is only cemented by Green Imagination, which strays less into sound oddities and sticks more closely to the short-and-sweet pop formula.

Things kick off with a rhythmic and chugging declaration in "Statues and Glue", bolstered by Dave Gerow's drumming and Sam Mixon's bass. This slice of straight-ahead melodic power pop is followed by the decidedly more psychedelic styles of "What Do You Know", but even with effects-processed guitars and vocals, the tracks's overall tone remains light, more on the side of Donovan than the 13th Floor Elevators or Syd Barrett. Then "Extraordinary/Ordinary" comes along and weirds things up a bit further, sounding like early B-52s filtered through Phish. It's a promising beginning to a lighthearted pop album, but it's not exactly a bold statement. In fact, if anything, the Sunshine Fix sounds like it's not aiming to go too far beyond the average Bonnaroo Festival standard.

In many ways, this lack of self-indulgence is a welcome change from the increasingly expansive experiments of bands like the OTC. There was always the chance, lurking on the periphery, that the music would slip into fatuous and unchecked noise rock. The light psychedelic approach helps the Sunshine Fix feel more grounded in a simpler musical experience. But during the middle of the disc, things simply sag. The interstellar Brian Wilson aesthetic of "Interstates" is a thud, slowing down Green Imagination's pacing to a crawl for an all-too-obvious moment of druggy mental exploration, and it takes the disc another few tracks to regain its sense of flow. The overtly Beatlesque "Rx" follows with a slow, deliberate waltz of gradually building intensity, but its increasing tension doesn't really lead anywhere. And while "Afterglow" might be an otherwise passable blend of melody and rhythm, it just never manages to stand out as more than standard fare from any other pop band.

Things pick up again with "Enjoy the Teeth" and "Face the Sun". The former starts off as a slow-paced homage to Beatles-era McCartney, but shifts into a punchy, '80s British indie pop mode, finally striking the right pure pop chords and standing out above the preceding songs. The latter kicks in with a blues-rock edge and injects a much-needed dose of funk, finally giving the Sunshine Fix's strong rhythm section something to play with and at last giving the disc some energy. But it's "Runaway Run" that finds the band most squarely hitting the mark. Building from a beautiful acoustic guitar melody, the song swells and surges forward from a ballad into big, anthemic sunshine pop with the help of a surprisingly effective Georgia Children's Chorus. This sudden introduction of the children's voices help give the song its expansive, sing-along feel. It's a much-needed highlight for Green Imagination.

Finishing with a surprisingly up-beat and quick-tempoed "Sunday Afternoon" and then coming to an abrupt stop, there's something missing from the Sunshine Fix's latest offering that can't help but allow for comparisons to Doss's prevoious work, both with the band's Age of the Sun debut and with his work in the OTC. While there's nothing wrong with reigning in one's bold, experimental tendencies and focusing on the complexities of the song, it's difficult to go from something that makes such a statement to something far more understated without the impression that something has been lost.

Green Imagination is a good indie pop album with some hippie-vibe, psychedelic overtones, but its not a great one. Although never entirely bland, it fails to make much of an impact beyond one or two well-crafted songs. Pleasant but inessential, the Sunshine Fix is overshadowed by a brief but momentous backstory, and Green Imagination won't help the band overcome those probably unfair comparisons.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

Following his excellent debut record Communion, Rabit further explores the most devastating aspects of its sound in his sophomore opus Les Fleurs du Mal.

Back in 2015 Rabit was unleashing Communion in the experimental electronic scene. Combining extreme avant-garde motifs with an industrial perspective on top of the grime sharpness, Eric C. Burton released one of the most interesting records of that year. Blurring lines between genres, displaying an aptitude for taking things to the edge and the fact that Burton was not afraid to embrace the chaos of his music made Communion such an enticing listen, and in turn set Rabit to be a "not to be missed" artist.

Keep reading... Show less

Composer Michael Vincent Waller just keeps on writing, even when trying to settle on instrument arrangements.

When New York composer Michael Vincent Waller began recording his works, he turned to his solo piano works. He hit us the following year with a double album full of a variety of chamber music arrangements. With Trajectories, Waller walks it back to solo piano and piano/cello duets. The ensemble format may have shrunk from The South Shore, but the scope of Michael Vincent Waller's work certainly hasn't. Trajectories is nearly 77 minutes in length and uses each bar of music for full minimal effect.

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

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