Reviews: The Dukes of Stratosphear: Psonic Psunspot
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Gary Pig Gold
circa 1989

               Psuccinct Psonic Psunspot Pstudy
                      by Gary Pig Gold

    Vanishing Girl: Hollies tune, circa '66 (i.e., Pay You
    Back with Interest) harmonies and bass line especially.
    Beatles ending chord (6th, I think).

    Have You Seen Jackie: Magical Mystery mellotron.
    Ogdens Nut intro w/ touch of Keith West and '67 Bowie.
    Music effects Electric Prunes (I Had Too Much to Dream)
    Strawberry Alarm Clock (done with a harmoniser unit set
    on "octave", by the way).

    Little Lighthouse: More Prunes! (tremolo effect on
    guitar).  Slight XTC influence (a la This Is Pop).
    "Conquistador" trumpet).  19th Nervous Breakdown
    bassline on end fade.

    Albert Brown: '67 Kinks Khorus with a Rutles dash.
    Piano solo Mungo Jerry 1970 (early!).  Laughing at end
    from end of "We're Only in it for the Money" (the song
    based on Kafka's "Penal Colony" ...forget the name...)

    Collideascope: More Lennon ("Walrus") / Rutles
    especially chord progression and voice overs on intro.

    You're My Drug: "So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star"
    (bass line and percussion and 12-string fills).

    Shiny Cage: "I'm Only Sleeping" chords and acoustic
    strumming.  Touch of '66 Hollies too (again).  GREAT

    Brainiac's Daughter: Yellow Submarine solo bubbles and
    vocal answers on last chorus.  More bouncy Carnaby
    Street chords.

    The Affiliated: A Mini-Opera!  More minor-chord Beatles
    ("Cry Baby Cry") / "Dating Game" and Byrds break in

    Pale and Precious: Andy imitating Eric Carmen initating
    Brian (with Dennis "Be Still" keyboard). Brian "Heroes
    and Villians" bass tone... and NOTES!, but mellotron
    makes it distinctly British.  Also "Help Me Rhonda"
    ba-ba-ba's.  "California Girls" jaunty keyboard riffs
    in middle part.

[Thanks to Gary Pig Gold]

Rolling Stone

The Dukes of Stratosphear

the dukes of stratosphear are XTC's psychedelic alter ego; XTC first donned this paisley disguise for the import-only psychedelic psendup 25 O'Clock. That album was a Day-Glo orgy of sound effects and Pink Floyd-isms; Psonic Psunspot parodies a broader range of targets, including the Move, the Hollies, Love and the Small Faces, and it owes no small debt to the Rutles. The songwriting is strong enough to make Psonic Psunspot seem like an étude for the latest XTC album, Skylarking, itself a not-so-oblique nod to the Beatles.

Psonic Psunspot, like earlier psychedelia, reflects that peculiarly British flair for the whimsical and absurd. “Collideascope” (“Careful, don't look down the wrong end”) features a Lennonesque word collage about sleeping and dreaming, with the sound of sawing (get it?) in the background. “Have You Seen Jackie?” is a topsy-turvy sexual romp in the grand tradition of the Who's “I'm a Boy” and the Kinks' “Lola.” A little English girl recites Alice in Wonderland-type nonsense between the songs.

Hints of the Fab Four are all over the record — “Shiny Cage” is a half-serious attack on the bourgeois treadmill, with Revolver ricocheting all over the place. Ending with “I Am the Walrus” laughter, “You're a Good Man Albert Brown” sounds like an imitation of the Monkees imitating Sgt. Pepper.

“Pale and Precious” is the record's magnum opus, an affectionate tribute to the Beach Boys in their canonic-lovesong mode. The song shifts abruptly (à la “Good Vibrations”) from high-flying harmonies to a big finale with a bouncy skating-rink organ and sleigh bells.

At times, Psonic Psunspot can seem like a game of spot the influence; it compiles all the little signifiers of psychedelia (tabla, backward guitar, tape effects) without having the connective thread that any self-respecting psychedelic album would have. No extended raga raveups, just ten witty reminders of not only the silliness and self-indulgence of psychedelic pop but also its unbridled inventiveness. — Michael Azerrad

[Thanks to Graeme Wong See]

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11 August 2019