Agony Shorthand

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

This is the most important and essential representation of1960s psychedelia, if you ask me. Not necessarily a ground-breaking assertion, but I’ll bet there’s more than a few folks out there who could use a walloping masterpiece of ethereal but hard-driving psychedelic garage rock. I only got clued in to this one a decade ago, years after I first became acquainted with “You’re Gonna Miss Me” and the Elevators’ first record (and I still have never heard “Bull Of The Woods” – I’m 13 dollars and 98 cents away from buying it every time I see it at the record store). Where to start? Well, how about the most distinctive if ultimately least important aspect of this giant: Tommy Hall’s amplified jug. Yeah, apparently he blew into this crazy jug that had a microphone taped to it, and it made the signature bizarre ascending and descending popping sound that can be heard on most of this record’s tracks. Rumor has it that the jug was supposedly where Hall’s drugs were stashed as well – drugs being an essential and necessary ingredient in the great psychedelic tradition. I’ve always pictured an on-stage contraption spewing big soapy bubbles in conjunction with this loopy sound, perfect for a late-night LSD mind-blower under the expansive Texas sky.

The leadoff “Slip Inside This House” is one of the all-time great songs in rock’s history, I’m convinced. Driven by a plaintive and desperate Roky Erickson vocal, “Slip” is 7 minutes-plus of pure brilliance. There are no guitar freak-outs, no screaming, no heart-on-paisley-sleeve pathos, just a terrific riff and a lazy reverb-laden echo chamber of a shell that encases all the confusion and conflicting desires of a band inventing their own genre. Other tracks are a bit more bewildering and messy, perhaps accidentally on purpose, while still others (like the killer “Levitation”) are just hard-driving visceral rock tunes. A big winner is the hypnotic and vaguely constructed “Earthquake”, which sounds like the product of a particularly addled studio evening. And yet these are basically straightforward rock and roll songs we’re talking about here – all the experimental weirdness and intense drugginess of “Easter Everywhere” is coiled up and latently hidden just barely out of view, yet it obviously permeates and certainly enhances the record. There’s also sense of sadness spread about the album as well, which I suppose is in keeping with what we know of Erickson’s rather difficult life. Even the Dylan cover “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” is imbued with a real ghostly sense of loss and grieving. The hallmark of many a classic LP is the ability to stretch across different tempos and means of attack while creating a cohesive feel, and it’s pretty obvious that “Easter Everywhere” succeeds in spades. When it ends, it always seems to end too soon. It’s a true benchmark for all 1960s rock and a defining moment as rock morphed from its pop and blues influences to a much deeper sense of out-there experimentation.