Outrageous Cherry

The Book of Spectral Projections (Poptones)

Four overlooked albums into its career, Outrageous Cherry has finally found the perfect home on Alan McGee's Poptones imprint. Both the band's previous record, Out There in the Dark, and its current effort, The Book of Spectral Projections, would've fit nicely on the Scottish psychedelic aficionado's previous label, Creation Records. But whereas Out There read like a mid-'60s hit parade, The Bookattempts to conjure a darker, heavier vibe. Mixing bubble-gum rock with occult imagery, singer/songwriter Matthew Smith and friends haul out the lava lamps and the Ouija boards like it was still 1971.

Out Thereclosed its string of pop numbers with a 15-minute acid test called "There's No Escape From the Infinite," in hindsight an obvious precursor to The Book's trippier sound. But although Smith dresses up his tunes in layers of ancient effects like phasers, wah-wah, fuzz, and echo, The Book is no hippie daydream: There's a paranoid amphetamine rush to the tunes, much of which is fueled by drummer Deb Agolli's tribal tom and snare bashing. On "The Unseen Devourers," the rhythm staggers forward on the strength of Agolli's relentless Bo Diddley beat, as Smith testifies to "scorpion-shaped clouds outside my window" and "spirits knocking on my wall." Guitarist Larry Ray unleashes some good old-fashioned acid rock leads, turning "Through Parallel Dimensions" into a one-chord Middle Eastern freakout and giving "Of Transparent Versions" a snaky, fractured funk spine.

These heavier numbers dominate the record, but Smith is also fond of spooky ballads in the vein of Tommy James' "Crimson and Clover." "My Demon Friend" creeps along with classical guitar picking, while "When You Emerge" sounds like a fist clenched through tears, with confessional clichés that ring triumphant rather than defeatist. Smith's husky, cough syrup voice makes even the most familiar chord progressions and lyrical mumbo jumbo stick.

Equal parts Partridge Family and Manson Family, The Book of Spectral Projections is pure pop littered with druggy sitars and references to demonic possession. In lesser hands Outrageous Cherry's head music might be cloying retro muck -- maybe there's something to Smith's occult fascination after all.

 
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