Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Plasticland


Released 1984 on Pink Dust
Reviewed by banjo, 02/01/2007ce


"Phil May Lives"

"Fruminous Bandersnatch"

"Pretty Song From Psych-Out"

"I'm Frying Real Hard Now Julian"

When I looked real close at the run-off grooves of my pink vinyl copy of Plasticland's thrilling first album, these were the inscriptions I read.

"Holy cow! They mention Julian Cope!"

Coloured strands weaving together. The tapestry was coming into focus. Everything cool is connected in some way. It's a secret society.

Talk about Unsung. Plasticland were no mere retro band. They were the real thing, stuck out of time and geography. Severely underrated even in their own day, they are simply criminally obscure now. Hopefully this will change. There is a new release out on Ryko of a compliation that has pretty much all of the soaring heights of this remarkable band's career. The individual albums aren't hopelessly obscure but they will take some searching. They are all well worth seeking out but this first in particular is really special (Note: The Plasticland back-catalog is a confusing one with there being a couple versions of the first album available. The one reviewed here features a posed group photo bordered by hand drawn illustrations of poppies, thistle thorns, castles and, at bottom, a sleeping beauty/Rapunzel woman with long, upwardly cascading red hair).

Like all great Cosmic pop musicians, Plasticland were highly literate. The lyrics are funny, engaging, memorable and effortlessly weird. Subject matters are: Euphoric Trapdoor Shoes, the divination properties of Surgical Gloves, Rattail Combs, Elongations...They did a killer version of The Pretty Things' 'Alexander' (it's on here, but not on the new CD comp.) They were also rather campy, like the really good stuff tends to be - as opposed to ironic, the overpopular and generally less endearing manifestation of humor-in-music.

Although steeped in dapper Barret pop-art coloursounds, there is a curious, sneering Alice Cooper tone to some of singer Glenn Rehse's delivery. They were older guys already when they made this stuff. Rehse and bassist John Frankovic had been in an experimental audio-collage band called Arousing Polaris. When they wrote and recorded as Plasticland, the heyday of Pink Floyd and The Pretty Things was only 15 years away! Think about that. Look back from here to 1992 and what do you see? If you're a kid in a band and you kinda sound like Kurt Cobain, does anyone call you retro? Strange days indeed.

A shame then that Plasticland were marginalized in their day. With hindsight, they no longer seem to be quite so constrained. Looking back now I see that they were, again, a true modern day (as in '80s) incarnation of the music I loved: eerie walls of overdriven Mellotron - Gregorian backing vocals absolutely drenched in reverb - Spangly 12-string electrics chiming away beneath searing swords of warped-out fuzztone solos - but all in service of the Song. Nothing random; To use a wise Jerry Garcia-ism, These are terrific little "ships in a bottle" and frankly I have much higher regard for that than the hipper route of chance and dirt that won the US alt-rock stakes - than as now.

On top of all that - On top of their killer music and phenomenal taste, Plasticland also had the very best name that their band could ever possibly have had. It speaks volumes about who they are and where they were coming from. Another non-musical sign of musical greatness.

Investigate this band. You will not regret it.


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