Album Appreciation: Jangle Bowls by Pretty Lightning

I’m going to say it straight out… I’m not entirely sure why I like this album. I suspect that it is one of those that doesn’t require too much close analysis because if you were to consider the constituent parts then on the face of it you might think that there is nothing remarkable here…

But there is…

There is something about this album that just puts a huge smile on my face… maybe it’s the joie de vivre with which it seems to be put together, or the sheer variety of what’s on offer here… all I know is that it got me from the opening of the first track and only let go when the last one had finished.

Well that kinda tells you that I like it… but it doesn’t really tell you why you might like it, so I guess I should go into a little bit more detail…

The album opens marvellously with ‘Swamp Ritual’ expressing some squalidly languid delta blues.. locking the listener straight in. There seems to be so many layers to this with different themes working together to give an overall feeling of positivity within the complexity. As such this first number seems to set the stage well for what is to come

After that the German duo turn on the afterburners as the bang into the title track which sounds like ZZ Top on speed (this is a good thing) but gradually morphing into early Wooden Shjips (definitely a good thing)… this is a totally mad track and an early prime example of the ‘joie de vivre‘ that I was mentioning.

‘Greyhound’ takes a step back to a more reflective pace… you can imagine watching the long plains pass by as you look out of the bus window… this is no Flixbus/ Megabus, this is America… as the panoramic music eases you along…

We’re back unto speed again with ‘123 Eternity’ which is kind of what I’d imagine Wooden Shjips would sound like if they had appeared on the Nuggets compilation… definite shades of garage on this track, especially in the breakdowns… I really like the overall rhythm that this number has, including the bridge which as a lovely mysterious edge to it…

This is something that is also evident ‘Voo Doo Boo’ which took me back to some earlier King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard albums, except with much stronger blues element and an almost etherial element which really takes you somewhere else with what sounds like a theramin coming to the fore.

This slower pace is kept up with ‘Boogie at the Shrine’ with its understated vocals which are almost shrouded amongst the relaxed music which really lulls you into a satisfied torpor…

Something which you are soon jarred out of with ‘RaRaRa’ which is more reminiscent of the early quicker tracks here… again there’s something of a festive atmosphere to these tracks… they are not only upbeat in nature but also in attitude, the way that Pretty Lightning play really makes you feel happy for some reason… there’s certainly a party going on in my head when I listen to this.

This continues with ‘Hum’, and I am struck with how the band make the blues sound so positive and euphoric, but also really like the moments on this album, like here, where there are other element which randomly come into the process…

A case in point in ‘There Is Ooze On Our Shooze’ which fairly lollops along for just about two minutes… and yet has pretty much all you need over that time in terms of musical and emotional satisfaction.

Which brings us to the final, and but some distance the longest, track on the album. I was interested to see how Pretty Lightning would do this, given their shorter numbers are so concentrated and focused, and yet also languid and liquid. Here with ‘Shovel Blues’ the psychedelic nature of their music comes to the for as they build up a real head of steam and really take you inside your head before thoroughly messing with it in a dream-like sequence which feels like the ‘The Twilight Zone’ on acid… that theramin taking me back to those old sci fi movies that I loved as a kid. However, whereas as I think most bands would have come back in with a punch of the previous rhythm, these guys ‘ad lib to fade’ leaving you in that state to contemplate the meaning of whatever it was you were considering.

As far as I can see Pretty Lightning have been going for over a decade now, yet this is my first real encounter with the Saarbrücken duo in that time. That is an oversight that I’m very happy to put right through ‘Jangle Bells’; an album that is really well played delta blues at its foundation… but is actually much more than that. For me it is the manner with which it is played that really stands out. You can hear that the two really enjoy playing their music, and this is something that transmits itself through this album… so if you’ve found yourself overdosing on too much of that introspective head-nodding stuff this will be the perfect antidote to bring you back up again.

‘Jangle Bowls’ is released on Fuzz Club records with a deluxe edition limited to 200 copies on 180-gram hot pink vinyl, and standard edition limited to 300 copies on bone coloured vinyl. It is also available on CD and d/l.



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