SPREADING his wings from his excellent mothership, the wiry post-punkers Pottery, Paul Jacobs is shortly to unveil a gently slackercore beauty of a full debut solo album, Pink Dogs On The Green Grass. Which is, y’know, the reason we’re all gathered here today.
Stepping away from the dependable sticksman role which is propelled Pottery right up to the top rank of new indie with last summer’s Welcome To Bobby’s Motel, Pink Dogs On The Green Grass arrives almost, not quite a full calendar year on and shows what a talent Paul is as a songwriter.
It’s a very personal set on which Paul lyricises about his life through the lense of folk, pop, indierock, psychedelia and all points over at the side of the grand constellation of music; and he created the artwork, even the animations accompanying some of the singles in the run-up.
Paul trailblazed onto the Montreal indie scene six years hence from Windsor, Ontario, and has garnered a rep as one of the brightest, most eccentric lights in the city’s creative spheres. (Of course, for eccentricity, you can also read absolute possessed of the courage of his aesthetic convictions). Aside from the creative clays of Pottery, he fronts up his own sextet and puts together several albums of year of take-me-as-you-find-me delicious lo-fi with a homegrown, Jeffrey Lewis visual aesthetic, such as Portrait of George (Demos & Songs I Forgot About), I’m Into What You’re Into and I Need a Place to Keep My Stuff, all of which he keeps real in limited cassette releases; though you can explore further over at his Bandcamp page, and why don’tcha just.
He’s eschewed the pro studio set-up he was operating in with Pottery and gone back to recording at his Rosemont apartment for this one; but boy has he got the chops. It’s not a product of austerity or exigency, but rather of creativity and congruence. He knows what he wants, and he knows how to get it. That domestic set-up is just large enough for the drum kit, geetars, keyboards, congas even. And it’s home. Where the heart is.
Paul says Pink Dogs on the Green Grass was inspired by the unintended moments in life that stick with you; the unexpected encounters or bizarre situations that repeat themselves in your dreams. To this end he began to whittle down some 40ish sketches to a final head count of a baker’s dozen of lovelies. You might be hearing a little Arthur Russell, a little Neil Young or Kurt Vile or other Laurel Canyon vibes, maybe even the indie world’s favourite naive tunesmith, Daniel Johnston; all, however, filtered through the PJ prism.
And, he reveals, it was actually the album cover – those pink dogs gambolling ‘mongst the green grass – that came first, lit the fire for the record as it arrives with us this week.
“I was trying to come up with an idea for the cover to possibly help me with a title, he says. “I drew these dogs and thought it was pretty cool; so I added the colour.
“I still couldn’t come up with a name for the album; so I decided to title the album art instead of the album. I felt like it had the feel of a children’s book, something that you would come across in your adult years that would bring you back to childhood for a moment.”
That’s a warming and whimsical aesthetic notion. The music in the grooves is very, very pleasing, too.
it’s “Christopher Robbins” that opens the record – not Winnie the Pooh’s beloved friend, not quite – and it comes on all gloriously fractured highlife polyrhythm, Vampire Weekend loosening the preppy thing, maybe forgetting to shave and hair all mussed up and abdicating for a more worldly-wise psych-pop groove. It’s hook-laden, inventive, has a great, blurry and bleary psychedelic middle break, and does everything right. We’re told it was written by Paul on bongos.
You’ll find the video for the deliciously scratchy lo-fi psych of “Day to Day” just a little further down. Paul sounds suitably blissed out as mellotrons or flutes or somesuch skip the song through slacker strawberry fields. It’s lurvely and does all the good raggedy things British bands are, for the most part, somehow entirely lacking in the capabilities to do; think Radial Spangle, think Joy Zipper. The video sees Paul transposed into a line-drawn troudabour backed by the cosmos.
He says: “This song was inspired by a trip with friends during which we played at a festival near a river out in the woods. The experience stuck with us as one of the greatest times in our lives. [It’s] a reminder to live for today and shoot for your dreams.
“For the video, I started it off with the impact of nature and the sky. I kept the visuals pretty down to earth with a psychedelic twist, just going for the memories from that weekend.”
A little cracker of a tune, innit?
“Half Rich Loner” winds us on with a wry observational tale, Ray Davies wedded to a southern-fried psych boogie, elliptical fragments of commentary: “Staring at the photo / Or taking notes at the meeting”. Low-key loner star state rawk for consciously ripped denim that drifts off into sweet percussive chaos and droning riff, it still possesses all of its sketched in early power. It makes way for the more synth-psych glide of “Most Delicious Drink”, various chorused Pauls buried behind the hot-wire, wavering riff as a piano vamps away.
“Cherry” is an ode to the red hue made into a huge, tubby, bouncing delight akin to Tame Impala way back before synth overkill, spliced with the delicious absurdity of “I Am The Walrus”. In no other hands could a simple colour meditation sound so LSD guru, loom so, as Paul weaves and darts his pronouncements through the coral eddies of a rattling Ringo pitter-patter. “Everything’s Fine” continues the fine trend with itchy and insistent guitars à la Pavement gettin’ it on with fuzz and handclaps and a blurry sense that you …can’t … quite grasp exactly what Paul wants from you, but that’s also all fine, gaxing through a hurdy-gurdy man looking glass.
Which is apt for the following track, the paisley pop, bright acoustic beauty of “Underneath The Roses”, which distends gloriously with electronic whooshing and smooth, melodic shifts perfect for swirling colours in a large park with other right-minded humans. It unexpectedly picks up some garage lick heft and emerges from its chrysalis as a whole other freak jam. Which makes it a great choice to take you by the hand for the declamatory, quirky man-in-black riffin’ of “Dancing With The Devil”, a tour through the mind that’s pitched at the exact (and heretofore unmapped) point that Tarantino meets the Las Vegas Grind collections of strip-club rock’n’roll strangeitude. “Dancing with the devil / With my shirt tucked in / Alright,” Paul concludes. And it is so alright. It’s a whole lot of fun and it’s carefree and ace and completely unconcerned with trying to please you; which of course makes it so damnably and irresistibly attractive. Weirdly sexy. Sexily weird. Oh, here’s Paul’s accompanying animation:
“Glory Days, Yesterday” has a kind of current indie anthemic quality, but seen through finely scented smoke; maybe Arcade Fire leaking and liquid with a lovely lo-fi riff and a sketchy devil-may-care, all kindsa vocal fun – call and response, applause, dark and gravelly pronouncements, playing out in the depths, snapping to silence in 144 seconds, job done and ridin’ for sunset. “Kathy’s Bible” has all kinds of found-sound atmospheres underpinning and a lovely riff, again alighting in the wider tradition of American lo-fi: take a great melody, don’t treat it with too much grace; let there be smudges on its cheeks and crumples in its shirt. Earthy, real, companionable. “I found the book to be quite long after that,” is the resolving hook, Paul singing of some weighty tome, as guitars cascade and twang, shimmer and wrestle.
“Your Last Words” is maybe the first moment of actual upfront introversion – or it would seem in its intro, trilling acoustics quickly picking up a Pixiesesque speedy strum and ring – and, dare I venture, some of Marc Bolan’s carefree vocal slurs. A stirring little banger.
On the “The Boys Are Back” Paul’s voice is weathered to the point of a Lou Reed 30-a-day drawl, and there’s a little of that throughout too; a kinda of Berlin ’74/’75 vibe, carrying the torch for a proper weird rock aesthetic. It fingersnaps into a “Doo-doo, doo-doo, doo” coda and you know the world is OK. Deeply fucked in many quarters maybe, but songs like this let you know we still have the capacity to be basically OK. The album wraps in a sunny psych jam skit, “Hello Sunshine”: a 90-second curtain bow. Awww.
It’s quite the lovely thing, is Pink Dogs On The Green Grass; Paul’s got an easy and irresistible way with a psychedelically garlanded melody, a knack for a tune; but he also doesn’t totally care, you sense, if the wider world comes round to his way of thinking. This is my thing, he seems to say; come enjoy it if you get it. If this album was a friend’s house, it’d be the one with towers of books in the corner and all kinds of intriguing knick-knacks and gewgaws scattered around, great gig posters, instruments here and there. A real place and not a place needily designed to impress. Me? I’m all for going round there, cos the tunes and the conversation are warm and carefree and welcoming.
It’s a really good place to be, is Paul’s world. It’s fun and it’s a haven of quirky musical discovery and immersion.
Paul Jacobs’ Pink Dogs On The Green Grass will be released in the UK on June 11th on Blow The Fuse Records digitally, on CD, and on vinyl; there’s also some merch bundling options. You can peruse them and pre-order the album here.