I’m a bit late on this one. I’ve had it for a couple of months now and have come back to it a number of times, but just not got into it. Time and again friends have told me its worth sticking with it, and reviews have been great, but for me…nothing. Then last week I had another listen and the penny started to drop. I began to see what my problem was (and it is MY problem). I was expecting something else from Flowers Must Die. Actually I was expecting ‘Källa Til Ovisshet’, the first track of this album which is the sort of psych jam that I have generally associated with the band, and was what I got during their excellent set at the Liverpool PsychFest last year.
The nature of this first track only served to further throw me off the scent because I thought I knew what I was getting from this album, something comfortably familiar that I could put on an let it wash over me in a kind of pleasant way…yet in a way that once I’d finished with it I would’ve thought it was fine but it wouldn’t have left much of a lasting impression on me.
What Flowers Must Die have actually done is exactly what I want from a band. They have reassessed where they are, they’ve expanded the band, and they’ve looked for a new direction and a new challenge. I know some bands, and fans of bands, like to stick to a template and put out album after album and, if that works for them, that’s totally fine. It doesn’t work for me though…because I always wonder what the point of playing album number three when one and two are not a million miles away from it.
This is a very long winded way of saying that I fell into my own trap somehow and failed to see the obvious, something I should have realised both from the band and their label (Rocket Recordings consistently put out new and innovative music).
So let’s start again…the aforementioned opening track is a satisfying enough jam (it’s not bad by any means), but things really start to take off with ‘Hit’ which is a superbly funky number that sheds the fuzz of previous outings and sets us on course for the dance floor. There are elements of soul and disco in there, but as well as that is a spacey structure that keeps the track interesting. There is an intensity to the track too which makes it anything but throwaway despite it’s pop sensibility.
‘After Gong’ is different again. Seemingly constructed around a tight bass line this track has elements of noise at times, and certainly some jazz structure especially through the vocal and sax. In the wrong hands this would result in a messy melange of a number but here it feels coherent and compelling. One of those that delivers more with every listen.
‘Why’ is and isn’t more of the same. By that I mean that there some of the same elements, there is a similar sort of paced repeating pattern; but this is more stripped back. There are flourishes of vocal, acoustic guitar, flute and violin all of which give the track an etherial feel; all sensitively adding to the central bass line which again underpins the track…which gradually disintegrates into something more noise oriented towards the end.
The direction changes again as ‘Hej Då’ launches into a melée of noise and chaotic channelling, out of which bursts a screaming guitar that sits over the top and gradually brings the other instruments with it. It’s like witnessing the take off of a sonic rocket as it emerges the cauldron of chaotic fire to reach an aural escape velocity. From there the track just powers off into the sunset finally crashing into the sun like an tumultuous flare.
‘Don’t You Leave Me’ sees a return to the club with another highly accomplished disco soul track, this time peppered with electronic ideas that take it out of the mundane and everyday…something to think about as well as dance to. ‘Hey, Shut Up’ is more abstract, yet does possess elements of funk that give the track a certain groove. The opening few bars in particular are replete with upbeat elements that will have (at the very least) your toes tapping. The song then settles into a psych pattern with jazz undertones that works very well in this context. Again it is the baseline that holds this all together for me, although the percussion also adds valuable beat and nuance while the vocal adds a layer of melancholy which nicely balances the track.
After the short interlude of ‘Där Blommor Dör’, ‘Sven’s Song’ brings the album to a close with a mixture of styles that in many ways sums up the album. There again is that bass combined with a vocal that reminded me of Gary Numan’s very underrated 1981 ‘Dance’ album, veiled, understated and funky. There are elements of noise too within the mix, combined with a free-jazz element all of which convinces rather that detracts. To me this seems like the track that say ‘we did it’, a statement that Flowers Must Die have put together an album that confounds and surprises (it has certainly done both to me), and yet it works…and works very well.
This, then, is an eclectic album that sees the band transitioning and developing into something different and, actually, far more interesting. It is an album that says to me, ‘yeah we are a psych band, and this is a psych album…but psych can mean many different things…here they are!” The Cosmic Dead recently declared that ‘Psych is Dead‘, for me this ‘Kompost’ album says that psych is alive…but it’s moving on…it is expanding its limits in new and interesting ways. Not a decaying mush but a vibrant genre which Flowers Must Die are feeding in a new way…I’m glad I finally realised it.
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