Live fast, die old. Despite Phil May’s health scare in 2014, the Pretty Things continue undimmed, now in their 52nd year. They go back a very long way, into the black-and-white, grainy mists of rock legend.
In 1965, around the time of his Don’t Look Back tour, they befriended Bob Dylan, and between them, there probably wasn’t a cooler, shockheaded, rock’n’roll futurist-looking cluster of dudes in Britain. The title of this album references the tear-ass Tombstone Blues from Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited.
They anticipated the provocations of glam with their moniker, and David Bowie duly honoured them by covering Rosalyn and Don’t Bring Me Down on Pin-Ups. Famously and allegedly, they also wrote the first rock opera, SF Sorrow, ahead of The Who’s Tommy. May was the primary lyricist on that album and has, alongside lead guitarist Richard Taylor, remained a constant in the group.
This album feels like an act of defiance from a band who may never have reached the commercial heights of their peers but in persisting, adapting and never stopping dreaming their psych dreams, have survived as a still- smouldering concern.
The Sweet Pretty Things… was recorded entirely on analogue tape, with little or no airbrushing or studio varnish. The results, as on Dark Days, are as rough and red raw as a badger’s arse after processing last night’s big curry.
Guitars slide and meld like psychedelic dough as the group reflect on more halcyon times that still burn brightly, like guiding torches in their heads. The Same Sun is a prime example, while Renaissance Fair is sun-splashed, prismatic and glistening, like flickering Super-8 footage of an early festival when such events were free, wild and rare, rather than tamed, corporate and ubiquitous.
A version of Sky Saxon’s You Took Me By Surprise sees the group chug and groove like Zeppelin in a jar, and it reminds you that advanced age leaves you with plenty of the stamina required to shake and rattle a keyboard and extract the full juice from a guitar.
Hell, Here And Everywhere, meanwhile, contributed by bassist George Woosey, features some lovely, wistful acoustic tickling and picking.
This is by no means absolutely top drawer – it may not cease the pain of your useless and pointless knowledge, but as exhilarating rock’n’roll experiences go, it’ll rub you down admirably./o:p
FINAL VERDICT: 7⁄10