Beachwood Sparks Once We Were Trees

Twangadelic Los Angeles quartet Beachwood Sparks still has it hard for Gram Parsons. At times, this sophomoric follow up to the band's eponymous 2000 release comes off as even more of a tribute to the long departed melodic country pop master. But the psychedelic inclination hinted at in consistent, yet tiny, doses last time around gets the better of the talented unit more times than not here. On fiery numbers like "Jugglers Revenge" (featuring guitar guest J. Mascis) and the closing title track, the band foregoes its sweet vocal harmonies and slide-guitar routine in favour of noisy freak-out jams. Other songs, like "Let It Run" and "The Good Night Whistle," are so drenched in LSD languor that you would swear the band has been dipping into Jason Pierce's stash. (At any rate, the latter composition wouldn't have seemed at all out of place on Spiritualized's latest effort.) Pernice Brother Thom Monahan recorded the works, though he shared mixing duties with fellow Lilys alumnus Michael Deming, who manned the console on the band's previous release. Incidentally, if you factor in BS drummer Aaron Sperske, this disc represents a Lilys reunion, circa Better Can't Make Your Life Better (minus Lilys vocalist Kurt Heasley, that is). That brilliant, Deming-produced 1996 CD (reissued in '98 and more recently co-opted for a Levi's ad) is still considered a mindblower by many standards, and some of that same magic is at work here, too. Once We Were Trees does yield one disappointing moment, though. The track "By Your Side" proves that even inspired artists can fall prey to an unremarkable reworking of the Stones' "Wild Horses," which is something the world really doesn't need any more of. (Sub Pop)