Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Album Review: Painted Garden

Greg Ashley is starting to get as annoying as Sufjan Stevens. Since 2001, he's released two immaculate garage-psych albums with The Gris Gris, two acid-soaked retro rock albums with The Mirrors and now two solo albums - and all without a drop in standards. Like Stevens, if we didn't enjoy listening to his records so much, our envy of his ceaseless talent is such that we'd line him up for a punch in the mouth.

We're told that Ashley wrote and recorded all of Painted Garden himself (in a burnt-out ghetto in Oakland and his remote cabin in Kosse, Texas), except for half of one song which was co-written and performed by an Oakland chanteuse. Just like his previous solo album, Medicine Fuck Dream, Painted Garden plays strictly to Ashley's folk tendencies but retains the acid-fried weirdness that his reputation is forged upon.

It's certainly a darker affair than Medicine Fuck Dream, and there's nothing to rival the lovely She or I Said, These Are Lonely Days from his solo debut. The scummy mix of piano, jazz drums and guitar makes Fisher King particularly creepy, as Ashley offers his take on heroin use ("pick up a spoon / cook up your breakfast"). Room 33, too, offers a nightmarish backwoods vibe and oddball lyrics.

Painted Garden's unhurried pace is enlivened by the final track, Corporation Station Agent, a short, frenzied garage-folk number that was originally found on a Gris Gris 7". It's a song that not only sends the album off to a delirious conclusion but reminds us that Greg Ashley is right up there with the great musical minds of our time.

No comments: