4 out of 5
Label: Good Records
Produced by: Chris Penn (reissue producer)
The full-circle journey of Tripping Daisy, sadly somewhat colored by the death of bandmate Wes Berggren, though the album’s celebratory themes and contemplative psych – besides acting as a fitting final form of the band – prove to be an affecting send-off.
Bookended by some more propulsive elements that call to mind the landmark Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb, it’s also immediately noticeable that there’s something a bit more trippy about the disc’s sound: freed from Island Records oversight, the sound is a bit more washed-out and warm, less leaning towards immediate riffs and a lushness, in favor of wandering rhythms and a shimmer of odd noises. While it’s admittedly not as impactful as a result, it is a wonderfully interesting frontier toward which the band was marching, inviting back in the kind of hippy-dippy stylings of their debut, but no longer trafficked in alternative music elements; lessons learned and decisions made from the past albums’ of experience.
This blossoms into some of the most brilliantly weird TD compositions ever, bouncing into odd and catchy rhythms, with Tim DeLaughter already showing off a Polyphonic Spree group-harmony approach to vocals, and a lean-in to long stretches of lyricless, psych / electronic soundscapes. The album’s pace takes a few listens to get used to, as the changeover from the opening verse-chorus-verse tracks to these more experimental, washed-out jams – starting with Drama Day Weekend, from which point on most of the songs drift into one another – initially dims the momentum, but once you consider the album as a whole entity it makes a lot of sense, doubling-down on recontextualizing their career with a blissed-out remake of One Through Four, then circling back to some more angular tones and thoughts on the closing tracks; this is a tour from here to now, but all painted with a very, very modern brush.
Lyrically, as mentioned, it’s a bit open-ended; I’d consider a lot of the communication on the album being done musically, with Tim checking in now and then with a few “keep your head up”-type words. But there are some elements of darkness or deeper thoughts, particularly on those bookends, and especially on phenomenal closer The Sudden Shift Worried Him, which could’ve honestly been a Jesus B-side, but also created a wondrous cliffhanger for the album, leaving us wanting more, but with the reasserted memory of their past works on which to reflect.
Having always listened to this via its initial format – CD – I’m glad to report that all the nuance and burbling noises come through perfectly on Good Records’ vinyl reissue, and more than that: that the medium is maybe a better home for the album’s purposefully warm sound, with the LP sides making better “sense” of the divide between pop and psych (excepting the transitions between tracks getting lost when flipping sides).
Tripping Daisy’s previous album may have been their pinnacle, but the self-titled followup was its own form of genius, indicating how the group likely would’ve kept growing, while acting as a fitting summary of their career and a grand send-off to Wes, and this iteration of the band.