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The Volta Sound: Dandelion Wine

Mark Horan

The Volta Sound evoke the not so groovy '60s while setting out to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. Can the Summer Of Love and 2005 co-exist without driving each other crazy? And more importantly, should we care?"

The Volta Sound

Dandelion Wine

Label: Orange Sky
US Release Date: 2004-10-12
UK Release Date: Available as import
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I'm a somewhat cynical person. Not in an overly negative way mind you, but let's just say, for example, that I'm a little wary of 21st Century neo-hippies playing music that sounds like it was written and recorded during the Summer Of Love (I think I actually heard warning sirens going off in my head). Dandelion Wine, the latest CD from retro-groovies the Volta Sound, is so derivative of the '60s era that it begs certain questions; first and foremost, is this music actually relevant anymore, and should we really be celebrating this as "alternative" music (alternative to what exactly?)? Furthermore, are the members of the Volta Sound "stylists" or merely hacks who are blatantly copying a style of music that is almost 40 years old. Last but not least, should we even care?

I don't quite know how to answer my own questions, really. On the one hand, you shouldn't write off a band just because they play a style of music that went out of fashion nearly four decades ago, but when that style is so evocative of a specific time and place in our culture and nation's history, do we really need to repeat it by watering it down to its most clich├ęd elements? By ignoring what is going on in today's world socially, economically, and politically, the Volta Sound have effectively stuck their heads in the sand when it sings inane lines like "Everyone looks good, when you step in the sun" over and over and over again. Sure, we all need escapism, but not when it alludes back to a time that was a complete fabrication in and of itself. You're living NOW, not THEN. Where's the originality here? And where is the responsibility to THIS generation's concerns? The Volta Sound is desperately overdue for a reality check.

The first half of Dandelion Wine sounds tailor-made to be the new Coca-Cola theme song, as one similar-sounding acoustic guitar-with-hand-percussion-and-brainwashing-sing-along song follows another like a mind-numbing mantra. The only respite from this cultish hootenanny is the ten-minute long spacerock track "Faustrock", which unfortunately lifts the bass-line and most of the production from the Beach Boys' original Smile track, "Fire". While I normally keep away from comparisons in my reviews, all the songs on Dandelion Wine sound so much like songs you've already heard before that it was like playing spot-the-influence with every tune on it. As a rule, that's a pretty good indication of a weak album.

The one saving grace on Dandelion Wine is the cover (surprise!) of Brian Jonestown Massacre's "Miss June '85". With the love-in gang apparently sleeping one off, the song is left simply to a lonely female voice and guitar that is in such stark contrast to the rest of the album that it's almost startling. It's also genuine and without any affectation or stylistic fetish to taint it, and there's not a hand-clap or egg-shaker in sight. This is something you can grab onto and relate to. It could have come from five minutes or fifty years ago and it would still sound fresh. Sadly, the rest of Dandelion Wine sticks to the hippy-dippy formula of playing a single blues riff on acoustic guitar repeatedly for five minutes while chanting what appear to be dishwashing detergent slogans.

It would be nice if the Volta Sound had their collective tongues firmly planted in cheek, but perhaps they really believe in what they're doing, whatever that's supposed to be. If '60s retro-nonsense appeals to you then by all means, buy their album. But I'm still confused as to when the present became so boring and the past so filled with incredible sunshine. I guess you can romanticize the past, but you have to actually deal with the reality of the present. After all, the artists of the 1960's weren't playing Big Band music or dancing the Charleston, so why should the Volta Sound be aping music from 38 years ago? This is your world, so live in it.


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