Plastic Overlords - "s/t" (Cracked Egg Records 2000, CD)
Alloy Now - "Twin Sister Of The Milky Way" (Cracked Egg Records 2000, CD)
From Aural Innovations #14 (January 2001)
Plastic Overlords are a Georgia-based trio that play psychedelic progressive rock that includes a healthy dose of good old ass kickin' 70's styled jam rock. Nektar is a good comparison as that band excelled better than most at mixing psychedelia with classic progressive rock without being afraid to throw in plenty of raw rock for good measure. And Plastic Overlords do the same. Lots of good arrangements keep the music interesting and intense at all times. The band consists of David Noel on keyboards, bass, guitar, and vocals, Eric Hand on guitar, and Brad Johnson on drums.
The opening track, "A Moment Of Silence For Unsynchronized Watches", sets the tone for the set illustrating the band's trademark mix of psychedelia and 70's classic progressive rock. I like how about half way through this 8-minute song the band shifts gears and guitarist Eric Hand launches into a brief but fiery psych solo. "The Sunburst Going Sour?" is a heavier tune, alternating between thundering, almost metallic segments, and gentle sweeping orchestral bits. We're also treated to Hand stretching out more on the guitar. And for diversity the band winds the song down on a quieter note as a dark but majestic organ glides toward a soft finale. My favorite track is "Middle Earth" with its pulsating space guitars and brain searing wah'd and efx'd licks. Guaranteed to stimulate those neurons!
Rounding out the set is "Plastic Overlords" (their theme song?) with its shimmering liquid guitar and pop-psych vocals that reminded me of the earliest Pink Floyd songs. Kind of a heavy psych version of "The Sunburst Going Sour?", though the ethereal keyboard bits make their presence known as well. "The Shade Of the Sun" and "The Number" both feature Plastic Overlords' take on 60's pop-psych, though "The Number" is more of a heavy rock psych tune. And "White Plastic Pavilions" is a floating ambient space instrumental that concludes with one of the more memorable melodies in the disc.
Alloy now is a solo project by Plastic Overlords' David Noel playing guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums, though guests on drums and bass are credited on a few tracks. The music is pretty close to Plastic Overlords, but Noel takes the Overlords' pop-psych leanings a step further on Alloy Now, combining a more song-oriented approach with the same careful and often complex arrangements that made the Plastic Overlords disc so enjoyable.
"The Butterscotch Star" and "Ghostly Superhero" are my favorites of the more song focused tracks. "Mysteries Of Ancient Earth" is one of my favorite tracks on the disc. It's got a gorgeous tripped out psychedelic feel, but also a jazzy fusion edge. And the title track is the most overtly prog rock sounding on the disc. A symphonic feel and nice soaring guitar licks give it all the ingredients of classic 70's progressive rock, but with that knack for catchy melodies that Noel seems to have. Noel's guitar style has a trippier feel than Eric Hand's more rockin' acidic style (though he rips it up a bit more on "Fat Lands"), though throughout the disc it's the keyboards that predominate. Moody Blues, Procol Harem, early Genesis, and even Krautrock bands like Eela Craig and Grobschnitt... there's too many influences here for comparisons to suffice.
In summary, I've really grown fond of both these discs. I suppose what I've described makes it all sound very retro and while on one level it is, the band sufficiently fuses a variety of influences such that no one band or style can be pinpointed. Rather, a general late 60's/early 70's progressive psychedelic rock style is the order of the day. So if you miss that era and loved a healthy dose of psychedelia injected into your prog rock then I'd heartily recommend both these discs.
For more information you can visit the Cracked Egg Records web site.
Contact via snail mail c/o Cracked Egg Records; PO Box 72194 Marietta, GA 30007-2194.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz