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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.

Jo is a journalist, podcaster, event host and music industry lecturer with 23 years in music magazines since joining Kerrang! as office manager in 1999. But before that Jo had 10 years as a London-based gig promoter and DJ, also working in various vintage record shops and for the UK arm of the Sub Pop label as a warehouse and press assistant. Jo's had tea with Robert Fripp, touched Ian Anderson's favourite flute (!), asked Suzi Quatro what one wears under a leather catsuit, and invented several ridiculous editorial ideas such as the regular celebrity cooking column for Prog, Supper's Ready. After being Deputy Editor for Prog for five years and Managing Editor of Classic Rock for three, Jo is now Associate Editor of Prog, where she's been since its inception in 2009, and a regular contributor to Classic Rock. She continues to spread the experimental and psychedelic music-based word amid unsuspecting students at BIMM Institute London, hoping to inspire the next gen of rock, metal, prog and indie creators and appreciators.