Whether the America that Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda explored so evocatively in the classic road movie Easy Rider in 1969 still exists in reality in 2014 is doubtful, but as long as bands like the Golden Grass exist it will remain vivid in the imagination. Deeply retro while skillfully avoiding the pastiche traps that have ensnared so many before them, the Brooklyn trio – who, remarkably, formed only last year – hark back to the vinyl age quite beautifully on this hazy debut, with a production job as gorgeously fuzzy and faded as an old Polaroid.
The touchstones are impeccable and lovingly adhered to. While not quite reaching Robert Plant’s lemon-squeezy hormonal tipping point, they indulge in their lusty Led Zeppelin side with the rolling One More Time, a plea to a biker chick (an ‘easy rider woman’, no less) to take them on a ride that may require a helmet, but almost certainly does not involve an actual motorcycle.
Meanwhile, whispers of Crosby, Stills & Nash harmonies and Hammond organ make way for a Hendrixian spin through hippie spirituality on Stuck On A Mountain, and the sweet-smoked psychedelia of the Electric Prunes hits the road on opener Please Man, only to hook up with Steppenwolf and rev the engine to its limits.
The centrepiece, though, tumbles wildly right through the almost 13-minutes of Wheels: in a moment of sheer, mammoth-balled bloody-mindedness, they present us with a drum solo. Not a meek, apologetic little drum solo sneaked in to appease the man behind the kit, but a sprawling, overbearing, thunderous and air-punchingly great drum solo that squares up to notions of cool and punches it right in the kisser. And emerging as it does from a jazz break packed inside a howling guitar solo, all wrapped up in a boogie-heavy classic highway anthem, it comes off like a supernova crammed into the middle of a magical, moustachioed, sweat-and-smoke-infused set of matryoshka dolls.
This is rock at its most classic, and in its refusal to acknowledge the 40 years that have passed since its influences emerged from the ruins of the hippie dream, it’s almost daring in its stubbornness. If the grass is always greener on the other side, we’d rather just kick back and stay on this gently baked, golden side of the fence for now while the sun’s shining.