Beachwood Sparks: Once We Were Trees

Record Review

Beachwood Sparks

Once We Were Trees (Sub Pop)

Imagine four small town buddies hopping a Greyhound for L.A. in the late Sixties. They've known each other since they sang in choir together. Between them, they've got one comb and a deep passion for Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde and the Flying Burrito Brothers' Gilded Palace of Sin. They hit town, meet up with some girls, and score a few hits of electric sunshine down on the beach. With someone else's guitars, at someone else's pad, they start playing their music. Their four-way harmonies soar to meet that now-familiar, West Coast country jangle, tart pop songs blending into a deep, rich mulch out of which melodies grow like wildflowers. There's something about trees, too. "Confusion Is Nothing New" they cry, complaining "The Sun Surrounds Me" ("and all I'm singing are the dark times") -- Roger McGuinn buried somewhere in the wood pile. "You Take the Gold," a reedier version of Gram Parsons ("you take the gold and I'll take the forest"), gives up its greater glory in ringing crescendos, just as "Let It Run" encases its Utopic promise in a hymnal collision of roots and pop. The banjo clip-clop of "Old Manatee" ("'cause the only trees are in our minds") and the hazy swoon of "Banjo Press Conferences" kiss away the pining romanticism of "The Hustler" ("like the leaves, my love's fallen away"). The clamoring cantor of "Your Selfish Ways," the fluttering "By Your Side," and jamoboreeing "Jugglers Revenge" set the stage for a crashing climax: "Once I stood as a tree, surrounded by beauty and love. Now it's all been covered over, with no room to stretch as I grow." Just imagine.

****

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