Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Green Pajamas
7 Fathoms Down and Falling

Released 2000 on Woronzow
Reviewed by Vinyl Junkie, 17/06/2000ce

The Green Pajamas – Seven Fathoms Down and Falling (Woronzow/Rubric)

The new year is all abustle with VINYL (!)releases from Terrastock alumni (not to mention Nick Saloman’s Woronzow imprint) and this may be the best of them all. Seattle’s Green Pajamas have been around for a decade and a half and this, their 15th full length (and third in less than three years) may be the one that finally elevates them above cult status. Wasting no time, Jeff Kelly and company pick up where they left off on last year’s best album, All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed (Camera Obscura) with the wonderful one-two pop psych punch of “Just A Breath Away from the Night” and “She’s Still Bewitching Me.” The former’s opening “Taxman” guitar riff yields to Joe Ross’ melodic McCartney-esque basslines and we’re off on another of Kelly’s excursions into Revolver-era Beatlemania, while the latter is another example of the genius of Kelly’s uncanny knack to effortlessly produce some of the finest hit singles of the last decade. A melody that refuses to release its stranglehold on our heartstrings, Jeff once again relates his undying devotion to wife, Susanne with a universal Valentine that men everywhere can offer to their sweethearts. Once and for all, the GPJs emphatically answer the question: what would the Fab Four sound like if they had an opportunity to hit the reunion circuit?

Keyboard player Eric Lichter’s “Riverfull of Reasons” opens with the guitar riff straight out of the younger Dylan’s “6th Avenue Heartache” and features some nice slide guitar from Kelly. Joe Ross’ “My Visit with Magpie” reveals the GPJs secret weapon: like Teenage Fan Club before them, the band boasts three major songwriters, each with their own unique voice and sound, yet each with the ability to focus their energies and vision on the Pajamas’ ethic without seemingly auditioning for a solo career.

Newest Pajama, Laura Weller breaks into the old boys’ club with her backing vocal contribution to “She Doesn’t Love You Anymore.” Having previously duetted with Jeff on Strung Behind the Sun’s “Secret Day,” Weller also led Capping Day, one of the bands Ross migrated to during his brief GPJ hiatus. Here, she adds a wonderful softness to Kelly’s melodic confections. Joe told me recently that "Laura is a perfect accompaniement to our established
'sound' and Jeff really likes working with a professional for once!" and this tightening of previous songs’ tendencies to overstay their welcome augurs well for the band’s future.

Not content merely to replicate the Beatles circa ’66, Kelly also shows a fondness for their US counterparts, the Pre-Fab Four Monkees, pilchering the melody from the chorus of their version of Neil Diamond’s “I’m A Believer” for
“Bronte Moon.” The old Nick Lowe game of “Spot the Riff” continues with “Swans and Butterflies.” Both “Here Comes the Sun” and The Records’ “Starry Eyes” are in there somewhere amidst this laid back country-tinged tale of passage and change. Just as the ugly duckling transforms into the beautiful swan, so, too, does the butterfly symbolize evolution and the lyrics relate the desire of the storyteller to advance beyond a platonic relationship, all the while realizing the impossibility of this ever coming to pass.

Jeff hikes his voice up an octave for
“Planet Love,” another toe tapper that recalls AM radio hits from the 60s. In fact, the whole album is almost presented as a game of “Name that Tune.” A longtime trademark of the GPJs is that many of their songs remind you of something you’ve heard before, yet they are all unique. Kelly and Co. wear their record collections on their sleeves and invite you to join the party. After all, the best hosts always seem to have the most adventurous record collections to enthrall you with at friendly get-togethers.

“Still Never Away” reminds me of lullabies my mom sang me to sleep with and also demonstrates Kelly’s fascination with Leonard Cohen’s method of assembling lilting madrigal-like melodies into basic three minute pop songs. The title track is a bit of a departure from its surroundings and resurrects the band’s old pension for endless jamming, a staple of their early live sets. It doesn’t totally work for me because it doesn’t seemed focused on a final destination. Perhaps the point of the title, but I’m not so sure it wouldn’t have been more effective at half its 9 minute length.

So, title track aside, Seven Fathoms Down and Falling adds another masterpiece to the increasingly impressive discography of The Green Pajamas, perhaps the finest pop band no one's ever heard of. Until now.

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