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The New Tweedy Brothers 

The New Tweedy Bros! (Ridon/Shadoks)

Wednesday, Aug 22 2001
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By the time the New Tweedy Brothers put out their only album in 1968, the group had been on the San Fran scene for several years, opening for the Grateful Dead, Them, the 13th Floor Elevators, and a slew of other big-name bands. Originally hailing from Portland, these Puddletowners could have easily risen to the top of the local rock heap, had it not been for ... well, why didn't the band make it? Who knows? The Brothers simply sank into obscurity and were absorbed by the Me Decade and the vast morass of time.

Fortunately, after being highly sought after in record collector circles for decades, The New Tweedy Bros! has been reissued, complete with a classy package that mimics the original multigatefold, acid-cube design. The record shows the variety of its time, with tracks that range from thumping electrified boogie to jangly folk rock, from Elizabethan chants to full-on, kaleidoscopic, psychedelic freakouts. While the work of other artists -- Canned Heat, the Byrds, Jerry Garcia, the Jefferson Airplane -- echoes throughout this disc, the New Tweedies had a distinctive feel that was individual, if not entirely original. The group's yearning, somewhat shaky vocals are part of what stands out, as well as its diverse repertoire and its ability to shift from one style to another. Of the New Tweedy crew's contemporaries, probably only Moby Grape could match the group for its stylistic range and offbeat songwriting.

In the wake of the commercialized canonization of '60s pop, it's commonplace to split the music between perfectionist pop (the Beach Boys, the Beatles) and druggie self-gratification (the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, etc.) As we gaze back through the gray shades of hindsight, it's easy to overlook the original psychedelic scene's genuine experimental growth and diversity. Occasionally, however, records like The New Tweedy Bros! reappear, offering a glimpse at the real creative excitement of the time. While the Tweedy Brothers' album has all the clunky charm of modern lo-fi recordings, it is undeniably a work of its era -- you can't help but smile when you hear it, both because of its stereotypical '60s motifs and because of those ideas' continued ability to enchant us, even across the digital divide of our cynical, post-everything era.

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Lawrence Kay

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