Monday, August 01, 2005


It’s rare that a music journalist will walk into a record store and ask the salesclerk what they’re playing over the speakers. It’s like the old stereotype about men and directions; it’s a source of pride, or a sign of weakness. Chances are they’re playing the specific record for the uninformed consumer, and it must be good enough to instantly peak their interest and therefore must not be for me. After much deliberation—like a scene out of High Fidelity—I ate my humble pie, walked up to the clerk, and asked, while meekly pointing to the ceiling, “Who is this?” The Rough Trade shop located in London has been known to be the arbiter of good taste, and their recommendations usually stand up with repeated listens. This time would be no different. I would even follow this humiliating moment by asking the clerk for another recommendation.

The record that the unassuming, dishevelled aficionado standing behind the counter played for the uninformed and, well, me was the Earlies’ These Were the Earlies, a consistently wonderful and supremely textured compilation of three previously released EP’s. The Earlies, a psychedelic and atmospheric band of two Texans and two Britons, unfortunately released this album to little, if any, American fanfare. Incredibly, These Were… hasn’t even found an American label—strange considering that it was one of the best albums released last year (and despite the long-passed release date of this record, it’s good enough to warrant the belated attention). Their magical mystery tour will secure them comparisons to the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev, but the Earlies’ lyrical themes (about life and death, not unicorns or robot-killers) and the bright, three-dimensional Pink Floydian echo distinguish it from the others.

I had the fortunate opportunity of seeing the Earlies play one of only two live shows in America. Thankfully, the band assembled enough money to pay for a trip to Austin’s SXSW, bringing their vibrant colors to an appreciative, albeit drunk, audience. Despite technical difficulties (the thirteen people on stage blew out the power. At both shows), the Earlies filled the sky with wondrous sounds, creating a cacophony of splendour and heavenly song.

— Check the Earlies website here for more information.


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