It’s hardly a new trick. Barely an issue of this magazine goes by without hearing of some band going “back to basics” and boasting of recording an album in a few days, live in the studio, with the minimum of overdubs, vintage instruments and old production values. Sometimes you even wonder if it’s a way of making light of having to make a record on a shoestring budget…
But for Dick Taylor and Phil May’s latest incarnation of The Pretty Things, that approach seems to have borne fruit. They’ve been helped by the fact that they’ve evidently assembled a band around them that are more than just hired session hands, but rather creative fellow travellers who seem to be as passionate about the group’s music as the two founder members, despite being decades younger. They’ve also contributed to the songwriting, resulting in a record that makes a fine fist of recreating the dark, dirty but alluring music the band made either side of buying fully into psychedelia on SF Sorrow.
The Pretties haven’t mellowed the way a lot of bands do in their dotage. Instead, they’ve elected to paint it black once again. Or so it appears from the two songs that bookend this set. The Same Sun marries their enduring talent for sumptuous harmonies with growling bass, Phil May’s ominous vocal delivery and a grinding, menacing tempo. Final track Dirty Song’s prowling, portentous atmosphere and insistent, mantric riff is reminiscent of Cream’s most darkly lascivious moments.
In between those two, however, the influence of feisty new band recruits George Woosey (bass) and Jack Greenwood (drums) can be heard in the thunderous reading of Sky Saxon And The Seeds’ old b-side You Took Me By Surprise. They lend it some serious welly, with May howling over the top as if to prove his life-threatening bout of lung disease six months ago was never going to stop him. The new drummer’s exotic percussion leads us into the meandering psychedelic blues jam that is Greenwood Tree, while Woosey’s Hell, Here And Nowhere – a lonesome western acoustic lament that slowly builds into an Eagles-style anthem – is another engaging stylistic diversion.
It all adds up to a record that is an example to any veteran band hoping to rekindle the old magic. Youth and experience can do great things together.