ALBUM REVIEW: El Goodo – ‘Zombie’: at the corner of Haight and (Mountain Ash)bury

SOMEWHERE in the Welsh village of Resolven, deep in the Vale of Neath, there is a tap.

As with all such fonts, miles of pipes lead the one end to the other, far up above in the Welsh hills, to a reservoir. As you approach that source, in your mind’s eye, you notice the visuals are changing. The quality is  … grainier, Super 8. The colours pop with a surreal brightness. Dust and scratches hieroglyph your vision.

It’s the best conclusion a team of earnest experts and I have reached: El Goodo slake their daily thirst from a well up there in the heather forever frozen on August 7th, 1968, or thereabouts (our instrumentation couldn’t read the tree rings any more accurately).

And they’re ready to fill your cup with what is only their fourth LP in a decade and a half, Zombie, which the good people at Cardiff’s Strangetown Records are ready to offer you come August 7th, 2020.

It’s been whispered that the quartet of Pixy, Elliott and Jason Jones and Andrew Cann entered Monmouth’s hallowed Rockfield Studios with Spiritualized and Julian Cope co-conspirator Thighpaulsandra with enough material, and plans, for a double album.

That hasn’t transpired, but make no mistake, the single LP that has emerged is rich and deep and psychedelic-flavoursome, reduced like a fine stock.

It opens with “Things Turn Around”: bittersweet lyrics  – “Before too long, it’ll go wrong / Believe me” – wrapped around a swing-time piano and guitar chime that does seem to come from the Alex Chilton/Emitt Rhodes playbook. And yet, it’s so fresh and wide-eyed and damn lovable. It takes a really pants day on which they didn’t really want to get out of bed, and fashioned into it a thing of #1 Record loveliness. After all, remember what light-fingered genius does, as per the old adage. And there’s so much more to these guys. Why not pay homage to one of the best bands to walk this Earth?

“Home” is a Byrdsian country rush, vocal harmonies rich, twelve-strings a-chimin’, themed on the beauty of well, just staying in; bein’ left alone. “I Can’t Leave” has reverb and organs and mystery, tells of a seemingly ill-starred romantic tryst, The Zombies deep in its bones. Wait till those exotic guitar intervals lift you.

… and back across the Atlantic again, for the hickory smoke of “Forever Casting Shadows”. Our narrator is regretful of some lost soul: “You were always thinking / How it could have been / You tried to block it out by drinking …”. The drums clickety-clack us ahead on that cross-State freight, our legs dangling from the boxcar as we nod to the sad lament. Hell, we weren’t born to follow.

The first single to be lifted from Zombie, “The Grey Tower”, we featured here, with its surfin’ back-garden dogs and irresistible distillation of pretty much everything great about late Sixties’ aural bewitchery somehow cooked into four minutes. There’s garage, surf-punk, orchestral and hard psych woven together in there. How dey do dat?

“It’s Been Awhile” lies on a chaise-longue in somewhat of a brown study, heart-hurt at a love not only lost, but at that awful stage of being even no longer on your radar. Heavy, luxuriant drapes of reverb, woodwind (courtesy Sweet Baboo’s Stephen Black) and organs place us firmly in Left Banke country. 

“In A Daze One Sunday Morning” is a straight-ahead mod-psych rush, woozing in on early electronica that clears the way for a gorgeous twelve-string rush. You’d play this on the eight-track in your Jensen Interceptor as you shift up the gears on sun-dappled roads, kerchief blowin’ back in the wind. 

“The Baneswell Blues” seems to take the thematic matter of The Stairs’ “Weed Bus” and places it in the kitchen-sink drama of downtown Newport, Baneswell being the transient burb adjacent to the Monmouthshire town’s railway station. Riffs are crisp, autoharps zing, socks are holed, gear is procured. It opens out into proper baroque pop, with strings and things making a brilliantly British psych beat number for your Dansette

“Fi n Flin” – Anglicized, “I’m sorry” is just the loveliest slice of paisley bubblegum pop you’ve heard since you lost your Ohio Express tape, while “Sounds Good To Me Man” is a cheeky little instrumental, picking up a guitar riff and sending it to a swinging’ Soho club to do service for pinging suspenders and feather boas akimbo.

It all resolves on a very deep Welsh slice of psych pop, “The Coast is Clear”. Blimey, they know how to do this so well over that side of the twin bridges, they really do …

So, you say, brows arched, blowing a Hubba Bubba bubble, all offensive pink: They’re fans. They love this stuff. To which I would counter: of course they’re fans. Aren’t you? Aren’t we? What, you want your dinner cooked by someone who doesn’t like food? What is this?

I for one would love to sit cross-legged in front of these guys’ shelves and flick through their vinyl. Oh you’ve got that (cool!), oh you’ve got that (jealous!); what is this?? I can picture myself saying.

They only seem to make an album every five years or so – relatively speaking, Zombie comes hot on the heels of 2017’s equally potable psych draught By Order Of The Moose

Just a moment’s silence now, if you would, as Zombie is named for Thighpaulsandra, aka Tim Lewis’s dearly departed, much-loved and vegetable-flatulent hound. With this shall we remember him.

Long may they reign, drinking from that time-slipped spring and bringing forth beautifully fashioned psych from that Welsh village hall. Let’s now raise a chipped mug and drink deep ourselves. 

El Goodo’s Zombie will be released by Strangetown Records on August 7th and may be ordered from an array of excellent emporia: here’s links to just two such recommended dealerships, Piccadilly and Norman Records.

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