19 May 2013

19th May - Alexander "Skip" Spence's Oar

Artist – Album: Alexander “Skip” Spence - Oar
Released:  19th May 1969
Sounds Like: Insanity

 For anyone who’s listened to the summer harmonies and the amiable psychedelic garage rock of Moby Grape’s 1967 self-titled debut, this schizophrenic and intense set from guitarist and chief songwriter Alexander Spence will have come as something as a shock. It’s introspective and sparse feel of the songs had little to do with the pop melodies of before, and that’s before delving into the harrowing lyrical content.

The roots of this record stem from Skip Spence’s attempt to smash a hotel door to pieces with an axe and subsequently do this same to his Moby Grape bandmates Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson a la The Shining. Spence as a result had to spend six months in a New York mental hospital (yep, that’s all!) and put together the bare bones for this twelve song cycle.

The insanity permeates this album in a much more subtle way than in contemporary recordings by the likes of Syd Barrett. Songs such as ‘Broken Heart’, ‘All Come to Meet Her’ and ‘Little Hands’ serve to showcase the melodic genius still within his warped mind, but ‘Margaret/Tiger Rug’ and ‘Books of Moses’ demonstrate the mentality of a man losing his grip on reality. The nine minutes plus of  ‘Grey/Afro’ is a difficult listen, yet ‘Weighted Down’ is perfect country pop. The fragile beauty of ‘Diana’ always brings a lump to my throat.   

Skip Spence deserves the same critical and commercial re-evaluation that Nick Drake and Elliott Smith enjoyed not so long ago, as this stands as a fine example of depressed acoustic guitar folk to rival either of those posthumous icons.

Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       Little Hands – 3:44
2.       Cripple Creek – 2:16
3.       Diana – 3:32
4.       Margaret/Tiger Rug – 2:17
5.       Weighted Down (The Prison Song) – 6:27
6.       War in Peace – 4:05
7.       Broken Heart – 3:29
8.       All Come to Meet Her – 2:04
9.       Books of Moses – 2:42
10.   Dixie Beach Promenade (Yin for Yang) – 2:53
11.   Lawrence of Euphoria – 1:31
12.   Grey/Afro – 9:38

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