The alternative country/"No Depression"/Cosmic American music scene (call it what you will) has been well served in the last five years with bands like The Jayhawks and Wilco attaining a fair measure of mainstream acceptance, whilst the likes of Son Volt, Whiskeytown, 16 Horsepower, Sparklehorse and Beachwood Sparks have thrilled the underground with their idiosyncratic treatment of roots rock and pop.
Beachwood Sparks in particular has divided critics as to the true value of its work. While quoting all the "right" influences, the main accusation leveled at Beachwood Sparks has been their apparent inability to rise above their inspirations. Too close for comfort is probably the general feeling.
The Tyde, although containing three members of the Sparks (Chris Gunst, Dave Scher and Brent Rademaker) are thankfully a more differentiated proposition. The key to this major distinction is frontman Darren (Brent's brother) Rademaker's penchant for lacing the alt-country concoction with heavy doses of Britpop circa 1978 to 1984. Yes, that's right, the so-called post-punk new wave era.
Thus, it's not unusual to pinpoint the weight of the unlikely lads viz. Lloyd Cole, the Undertones, the Cure and most prominently, Felt together with the almost obligatory nods to the Dylan/Band/Neil Young/Byrds contingent. And it works marvelously too!
"All My Bastard Children" and "Strangers Again" re-create the haunting vibe of The Basement Tapes, Americana at its most arcane. The rather catchy "New Confessions" finds the Tyde mining the rich vein of Britpop previously mentioned. In a laidback almost casual fashion, the song delivers a pleasurable ride. The fragile epic ballad, "Get Around Too", raises the atmospheric allusion of Echo & the Bunnymen's Ocean Rain. This languid majesty is also evident on "The Dawn", which certainly would not be out of place on the Stones' Exile on Main Street. Another indication of this unique styling is on the breathy "Your Tattoos".
Perhaps the crowning glory of The Tyde's Cosmic American pop manifesto arrives with the almost 10-minute long Crazy Horse-like shambolic "Silver's Okay Michelle", inspired in part by ice skater Michelle Kwan. Beginning as a ragged country folk slow rocker, it gradually picks up momentum and intensity as the instrumental sequences rise to a crescendo, almost like a psychedelic rock jam. As the fuzztone guitar fades out over cascading waves of synth wash, there is almost a dreampop feel (ala Spiritualized, Swervedriver), as if in one song, The Tyde manages to find an expression in a myriad of forms. A magical moment!
Definitely in this case, Once is an album you cannot carelessly ignore. Treasure every precious nuance, tone and inflection this is the sound of the new Cosmic Americana in full bloom.