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Variety Lights: Central Flow

Mercury Rev founder embarks on a woozy analogue celebration.

We’re barely a full song into Central Flow and there’s already that unique wooziness only David Baker can conjure. Twenty years ago Baker specialised in discombobulating psychotronica with his group Mercury Rev. He parted ways with the Rev after second album Boces, and although the band’s fortunes soared, it was at the expense of their experimentalism and cult standing.

Now Baker returns with collaborator Will McClean in Variety Lights (named after the vaudevillian troupe in Fellini’s 1950 film). The codeine/pop-psych refraction is back, pulling you into a warm ‘n’ fuzzy analogue vortex.

These are songs, yes, but mainly synth-based, lymphatic impressions that sweep over the listener. Sea Faraway punctuates the brume with an alarm-bell boogie, Invisible Forest is Hungry Like The Wolf spliced by Suicide. Silent Too Long marches to a parpalong Casio beat next to Sell Your Soul’s heliumed cha cha. Crystal Cove recalls both Tipsy’s downtempo exotica and John S Hall and Kramer’s slanted musings.

‘Everyone’s gonna be singing delirious songs,’ burbles the febrile mastermind on the jaunty Establishment. Jabs could well be an option.

Embracing weird, wild and wonderful sounds, Prog's Associate Editor Jo's also a Classic Rock columnist, an avid tea-drinker and cupcake fancier.