Underground Garden CD reviews


from Powerpopaholic

Talented musician Blake Jones leads his quirky DIY pop band The Trike Shop on a ambitious musical journey through The Underground Garden. Taking cues from icons of sixties pop (Beatles, Mod era Who and Beach Boys) the tunes are done with zeal and sincerity on the opener “Forestiere Gardens” complete with catchy “oh yeah” choruses.

The album does have a sense of humor and vocal style that recalls The Bonzo Dog Band in spots. “Sing Along” is a another good example with a wonderful melody line and “la la” background harmonies that compels you to join in. You’ll quickly recognize the “Magical Mystery Tour” chords opening up “Sun Up” but it takes it up a notch similar to The Pillbugs. . ..There are 15 tracks here, each with it’s own charm so you’re bound to find a favorite.

from the Franorama blog:

[Jones'] heart might beat strongly for the Fab Four — but for The Beatles who defied convention in their time as well, in both musical styles and fashion. That’s what he’s taken away from his lifelong fandom — and in that regard, he’s as spiritually attuned and subversively rebellious as Lennon and McCartney. He’s spent his musical life “Fighting the Big Dumb Noise” — as he so puts it on one song on this album, a tune that combines XTC’s off-kilter cadence with a hint of “Magical Mystery Tour” and late-’60s Beach Boys vocal accents. Big dumb noise is all we hear any time we turn on a commercial radio station; it’s also the celebrity culture we’re bombarded with at a time when we really need substance. And this is his rejoinder. At this point, Jones may be tilting at windmills, but he’s having fun doing it. And it shows.

This fourth Trike Shop album since 1997 and first in five years (he also recorded last year’s “Theremins of Mystery”) is his tightest work to date. Some of these seeds, such as the aforementioned “Big Dumb Noise,” have been germinating for three years in one form or another, and it’s wonderful to hear these tunes tightly crafted and produced.

The opening song, a flat-out infectiously bouncy and full-throated “Forestiere Gardens,” encapsulates the tone of the album and the spirit of the artist all at once. What Jones writes about Forestiere also applies to himself, though he’d be too humble to admit it: “People loved the place but talk about it rarely/Cuz no one wants to live their life beyond the ordinary” and “Forestiere Gardens so cool down below/We’re hanging out in the underground/I wish these tunnels ran all over town/We’d fill them up with a local sound/Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah.”

“Sun Up,” which shamelessly takes its intro hook from “Magical Mystery Tour” before noodling off in other directions (i.e. a halting rhythm break that conjures XTC’s “Life Begins at the Hop” and a lite version of Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime”) probably would’ve been a hit in the ’60s and deserves to be one now. Another catchy selection, “Send the Band to Liverpool,” an oldie from when they were raising money to get there, melds early-’80s new wave rhythms with Raspberries harmonic breeziness, a faint echo of George Harrison and a “Peggy Sue” drumroll. And the artist satisfies his theremin (ahem) jones on the faux-sci-fi lounge number “The 5 Deadly Fingers of Dr. Theremin.”

You might question the wisdom of a Christmas song in late April, but as social commentary, the jaunty and just-as-catchy strummer “Christmas Sale” works just fine. Inspired by the right-wing Christians down South a few years back who objected to Target calling their year-end sale a “holiday sale” instead of a “Christmas sale,” Jones lets go with both barrels, kindly in delivery but barbed with sarcasm: “How can God survive without us?/Without us worried about him and solving his problems/Without us passing his laws and fighting his battles,” and “How did God survive before us?/Without General Washington securing the manger?/Without Irving Berlin orchestrating the angels?” 

 For all the heart Jones wears on his baggy sleeve on this album, though, he saves the biggest pieces of it for near the end — the tag team of “Out & Free & Faraway” and “Everybody’s Got an Andy Story.”

The former, a spread-your-wings pop tune with a healthy dose of late-period Beatles, is a so-sweet tribute to his late brother Bryan, an FM alt-rock jock in San Diego and Fresno who died in 2006 at an all-too-young 49. Kid brother really did him justice — capped by a mournful snare rat-a-tatting over a snippet of an aircheck of Joe Strummer hanging out with Bryan at an early-’80s Clash show in Fresno.

The latter is a solo acoustic tribute (with a “Love Will Tear Us Apart” feel) to an old-school local punk who was slowed by brain damage from a car accident a few years ago, and it’s linked to that same Clash show (“And we were all very jealous I must confessa/Cuz you were sitting with Joe Strummer on my brother’s Vespa”). Every punk/alt-rock scene has its tales of one or more people who died young (or, in this case, were incapaciated) and left a lot of tales in their wake, recalled over beers or coffee years later by their friends with a mix of knowingly sad smiles and occasional tears. Jones captures the essence of his friend in a way any scenester can understand completely.

It doesn’t matter whether a plant grows underground or on the surface, as long as it gets enough light and water and TLC. Jones continues to grow his subterranean musical garden, a lush landscape of sound and words, away from the prying eyes of the mainstream musical public walking so tantalizingly close by. But enough with the underground already — it’s time to bring him and The Trike Shop out into the light.

from  Absolute Power Pop:

Blake Jones & The Trike Shop-The Underground Garden. My only previous exposure to Blake Jones & The Trike Shop was on an IPO compilation before he sent me his latest full-length, and until now the loss has been mine. This is buoyant, just plain fun and catchy as all get-out pop that draws on everything from dance-hall English pop to the Beatles and Brian Wilson (cf. “The Five Deadly Fingers of Dr. Theremin”) with a touch of Zappa thrown in. The fun-house Beatles of “Forestiere Gardens” will leave it’s “oh yeah” refrain burned into your brain, the shambolic “Sing Along” will have you doing just that, and “Sun Up” starts as a rewrite of “Magical Mystery Tour” then takes its own magical mystery tour into a synth-pop break and then back again.