The Purrs are a veteran Seattle rock band who have recently put out their sixth release, Tearing Down Paisley Garden, a seven song DIY statement they’ll be celebrating the release of with Brent Amaker and the Rodeo and Battle Hymns at the Crocodile on Thursday, June 24, 2010. The reason I’m writing this review a few weeks beforehand is that their music gains so much power by replaying it over and over, I want to encourage old fans and new seekers alike to seek out this mini-album and get into its songs before they see them played live.
Jimo (lead vocals, bass), Rob Silverstein (drums), Jason Milne (guitar), and Craig Keller (drums) have a deceptively straightforward song style, often called “psychedelic” I think because of the ace use of Nuggets-style garage-druggy guitars cushioning the briny observations, bitter laments, and pissed off observations carefully sung like a snug couch on a long, slow, buzzed afternoon. There is no nostalgic over-painting of cheap effects, background vocals oozing everywhere at once, trying to cram in as many mimetic and mnemonic riffs to capture short attention spans. It is exactly in the band’s use of restrained stoner euphoria and dejection that makes them sound just as savvy in a rotation next to the power pop of The Only Ones or The Posies as with more gritty bands like The Seeds or The Nomads.
The original and cover songs on this lengthy sampler seem to have been crafted in a period in which we’re all sharing, of hesitant hope and brimming outrage over the hollowing of our pockets and relational abilities. Pain mixes with pleasure in the fantasies of “Only Dreaming,” a cover of a Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry song that seems like a lighthearted “Venus In Furs”: A quietly desperate cry of venue-lingering mopers wanting to feel something new, anything real. “I’m Slipping” casually mentions fucking the friend of a lover, but it’s just another betrayal in a world where they all run together, and “I’m losing control.” “Pie In The Sky” opens the gas can and lets us smell the promise of burning down all the suburbs and their useless wares that have fallen down around us. An early track, “It Could Be So Wonderful,” gets resuscitated here, and it’s hard to tell if it’s sarcasm or genuine yearning. This is probably answered by “Always Something In My Way” which is ontological protest at its plainest, reminding me of that Bukowski line about wars not driving us utterly mad, it’s our shoelace busting in half when we’re running late in the morning. In the meantime, a sweet run-through of the Hazelwood gem “I Move Around” offers the only existential solution here. Stay tough, stay free, keep moving.
Tearing Down Paisley Garden is a transitional record, and its content sounds like a bit of a bummer when you describe what its words mean, but it is the work of an extremely bright band in training, still punching the bag hard with some of the best rock poetry in town and a gym full of hooks you might underestimate. Catch them near the end of the month to see how they work this out, catch them on the upcoming spring tour, and be prepared for a feistier major bout with another full length release next spring.