16 Apr 2012

The Pillbugs - Everybody Wants A Way Out - Obscure Classics (Review)

The Pillbugs started out in 1991, boldly proclaiming themselves "the world's most psychedelic band."
While this may be overstepping the mark a little, they can certainly lay claim to being the world's best unknown psychedelic band.
Their early albums ( which are all worth picking up if you are lucky enough to come across them ) are all long out of print, but thanks to the folks at the Rainbow Quartz label, we're still able to treasure some of the Pillbugs music.
The label released Monclovia in 2007, essentially a best of culled from their earlier albums with a couple of new tracks added on, followed by this, their last in 2008.
The album was recorded under difficult conditions, with bass player Mark Kelley going through the last stages of a rare form of lung cancer that he'd been diagnosed with in 1999 which prevented him from playing on this album, and unfortunately from seeing it completed. Kelley was instrumental in forming the band so as a tribute his bandmates faded in several seconds from his original demo of album closer North of Reality so that he could be there at the end. They also made the noble decision to call it a day after the recording of this album, rather than replace the frankly irreplaceable Kelley.
With all of this in mind one might expect Everybody Wants A Way Out to be a somewhat subdued, or even maudlin affair, but this couldn't be further from the truth. The Pillbugs make joyous, melodic music, and on their last they've created a fitting epitaph and a fine last stand which ranks up there with Abbey Road as one of the great last albums.
Along the way you'll discover crunchy Cheap Trick style power-pop with chiming twelve string guitars ( Soundman ),Ticket to Ride style pentatonic guitar riffery ( Life as it Happens ), the hyper melodic Greeting Committee, which could happily pass muster on Side Two of Abbey Road, the moodier, minor key Hard Line, the sunny, almost calypso style rhythms of Can't Get It Right which sounds like Tom Petty during an uncharacteristically whimsical moment, spacious psychedelic balladry ( Do You Really Want To Go To The Centre of the Sun? ) and even proto-stoner rock which wouldn't sound out of place on a May Blitz album, or even at a stretch the first Sabbath LP ( Play The Hear Back ).
Highlights though are Emily Loves, a harmony pop gem written and almost fully performed by the band's drummer, which is one of those deceptively simple harmony pop numbers that the late sixties charts were so full of, Tragedy Anne which evokes memories of the moustachioed Beatles, all backwards drums and jagged cellos, and finally North of Reality, a quite spectacular, and massive psych ballad with lazily floating harmonies lifted straight from the Pretty Things peerless S.F Sorrow.
Make no mistake about it - this is the sort of album which someone could rediscover and make huge at any moment with the right endorsement, so do yourself a favor and get in first.
And don't be too sad about them breaking up - group leader Mark Mikel's new outfit Dark Ocean Colors have already released their first album ( also on Rainbow Quartz ), and I can happily confirm that it lives up to the expectations laid by Everybody Wants a Way Out.

Listen To Tragedy Anne Here:

And Greeting Committee Here:

You can buy Everybody Wants A Way Out on CD here. Get in quick before it's out of print too.

There's also a newly released 47 track digital best of available for download here at bandcamp.

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