Sunday, June 15, 2008

Love Psychedelico: Happy and Hooky

A month or so ago, a publicist tracked me down through some of my music writing on the web and asked me if I wanted to hear a record by a Japanese duo called Love Psychedelico. I said sure.

This weekend, I finally got a chance to listen to the band's first US release: This is Love Psychedelico. Singer Kumi and guitarist Naoki have been big in Japan for the better part of the decade, and their first American release is a compilation of tracks from the band's first four records -- The Greatest Hits (2001), Love Psychedelic Orchestra (2002), Love Psychedelico III (2004) and Golden Grapefruit (2007) -- and I was very pleasantly surprised with the record.

The surprise is mostly a function of subverted expectation. The band is being sold as a sort of "peace and love" classic rock band, and that's not completely off-base. But Love Psychedelico updates that vibe very smartly; they're a lot less retro than the name and PR would have you believe. This is no jam band. Think Arthur Lee's Love as a good reference point for some of the music, with a lighter and more ebullient tonal palette. (Check out "Everybody Needs Somebody," one of the three songs streaming on the band's MySpace page.)

Plus, the songs are just bursting with sharp poppy hooks that really do stick in the brain as they ride to your ears on very mellow tempos. "Your Song"(another one of three songs streaming on the band's page) is a really good example of that -- a soft rocking groove with just enough intensity to be convincing. And there's a hint of Lyndsey Buckingham's nervy pop inventiveness in songs like "Unchained."

There are lots of influences crammed into Love Psychedelico's sound -- but they manage to mash them up so thoroughly that you really never can pigeonhole them. A really terrific summer record. Call it California via Tokyo

Buy This is Love Psychedelico (Hacktone Records) at Amazon.

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