Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Troll - Animated Music

The Troll
Animated Music


Released 1968 on Smash
Reviewed by Lugia, 06/04/2005ce


The Troll: "Animated Music"
Smash Records SRS-67114, recorded/released 1968.
Reissued 2004 on Radioactive, RR 064.

Side 1:
1) Satin City News
2) Mr. Abernathy
3) Fritz und Sweeny
4) Everybody's Child
5) Solitude
6) I've Only Myself to Blame

Side 2:
1) Professor Pott's Pornographic Projector
2) Have You Seen the Queen?
3) Mourning of the Day
4) A Winter's Song
5) Werewolf and Witchbreath

Part of the whole Chicago late-60s psych scene alongside their similarly well-produced Dunwich stablemates H.P. Lovecraft, The Troll released a few near-hit singles before this album. Originally released on Mercury's Smash sublabel, this got not a whole lot of attention in its day...and that's sad, because there was a goodly bit of psychedelia that probably shouldn't have made it to the surface before this. It's quality, although one definitely can tell it's a 'period piece'. Still, if it's a fine 60s flashback you need, just drop this one on...

...and you're greeted with fine fuzz and ticktocking percussion from the start of side one, with "Satin City News". Now, it should be noted that the lyrics here tend toward a political and cynical bent...which is about par for much of the album. In amongst the psychedelia, there's a certain darkness on "Animated Music", although nothing that would tend to bum one out. That same acerbic political tack continues on "Mr. Abernathy", with its classic trem-guitar and poppy horns. While the tale on this track is certainly one of American political scandal, etc, the sound...in fact, the sound throughout the album...is very British. It's not the sound you'd associate with Chicago at all, really...but something more Abbey Road-ish, with tinges of early Floyd here, a dash of Moodies there, and lots of tape spooling around ala Sir George Martin's production methods circa "Sgt. Pepper".

And speaking of tape, one of a steam train segues us from "Mr. Abernathy" and into "Fritz und Sweeny", something of an anti-war song, but with a story from another period than when this was created. Again, more excellent backing work here along with the band's work really pushes the sound. "Everybody's Child" follows...if I remember right, this was the single off of this, and it's fine work, with more of that sweet fuzztone, great horns and strings, and a great McCartneyesque rubbery bassline.

Then a short interlude, the 28-second acoustic but "Solitude" leads us into another quite dark anti-war reverie, "I've Only Myself to Blame", which contains some great tape tinkerage, early proto-electronics, weird string dronage, and so on. Again, the 'Pepper' feel is pretty strong with this track, with the reoccurring tape segues that keep 'flashbacking' the song through the strange horn and stringwork here into the stuck-record-like ending with its tape-chop ending. Fine work.

Side two begins with one of the weaker songs, "Prof. Pott's Pornographic Projector". Admittedly, yes, this 'vaudevillian' sound was something of a thing during the late 60s in a way, but the track seems more novelty-like to me than anything that particularly hits home. Still, all the layering of taped trickery and various keyboards and electric sitar and such is still impressive. "Have You Seen the Queen", while also still sort of under the rest of the album's level, is amusing in a silly, campy, Noel Coward-ish music hall sort of way. Still...it's kind of odd, as it's veddy, veddy British...but these guys are from the same Midwestern flatland I live in these days, and this whole affair was recorded in Michigan. Oh, well...

Fukkit...yes, those two tracks were lame-ish. But what comes next more than makes up for it, as the heavy fuzzed, echo-damaged, tape-fucked, rocksichordish strangeness of "Mourning of the Day" proceeds to tear your brain a couple of new orifices somewhere around your third eye. Very much Barrett-period Pink Floyd by way of the International Artists label with a dash of Lothar in sound, this one track alone would be worth the price of admission. This, kids, is what good 60s psych is supposed to sound like. If they made textbooks on that subject, this would be in there. The latter 20-30 seconds of the track, in fact, were probably created by feeding the mixing desk some good '25 and letting ITS mind melt.

After that outburst, the introspection of "A Winter's Song" is sort of welcome. This takes us more back into that Moody Blues direction, with the acoustic guitar, quiet vocals, tasty keyboards, and VERY well-done orchestration that's quite reminscent of their earlier Deram releases.

But the calm cannot possibly last. Nope. "Werewolf and Witchbreath" is another slab of serious damage, with imprecations to all manners of evil spirits, along with all manners of evil tape effects, evil heavy fuzz, evil electronic things, evil wah-pedals, and just evil. But like a lot of what's in here, there's still a cartoonish feel to the proceedings...this is less like a real occult demonic nightmare and more creep-showy Roger Corman-esque in its pose. But hey...that's part of why it works so well, I think, right down to the Hammer Film-oid echo-organ effects and so on. And daaaamn, they sound cool next to the fuzztone and the Butterfly-like organ solo in the bridge, y'know?

...and it all winds up with some cheezy BWOOONG on a gong, panning back and forth. BOOscaaaary! "Animated Music" is sort of an appropriate title for this collection, given that certain 'cartoon-like' character to some of the lyrics and such. But don't let that put you off, as there's still that darker and often-introspective subtext to the album, plus some outright excellent playing and period studio trickery here. Those who go for that should look into this one, especially since it's been reissued recently on CD on Radioactive. Like I said, as 'period pieces' go, it's quality, and one deserving of attention.


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