Release Date: Jul 21, 2009
Record label: Jagjaguwar
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Folk
With its combination of laid-back acoustics and psychedelic mumblings, Gorgeous Johnny is a soundtrack for lazy, hazy summer days. The Skygreen Leopards have trod this path before, coloring their avant-garde pop songs with banjos, homespun percussion, rickety harmonies, and other elements of folk music. Like the albums that preceded it, Gorgeous Johnny is similarly earthy and sepia-toned, but its 13 tracks also hint at the band's maturing ability to write a concise, clear-cut hook.
It seems only natural that California - the end of the road for the frontiersmen, the seekers, and the dispossessed of the American West - should have found a new spirit of expansion in the mid-20th century, one springing through the floors of dusty Hollywood lots, the orchards of the burgeoning microprocessor industry, and through the very strata of society itself as a newly-emerged and dangerously innocent youth movement charged headlong into the buffers of Berkley, Altamont and Watergate in much the same way their predecessors had the Pacific Ocean. Like other Californian bands - BJM, The Warlocks, Wooden Shjips - Skygreen Leopards exist almost entirely within this metaphysical space. Ignorant of progress and drawing unashamedly from the nearly bone-dry well of whatever the Sixties meant or has been twisted to mean by time, The Skygreen Leopards make music that stretches back across the decades.
The opening track on Gorgeous Johnny, the new album by the Skygreen Leopards, is fittingly titled “Johnny’s Theme”. It’s an instrumental number that sways in a thick psychedelic haze, making for a sound that is intricate and fragile, but too thick and bracing to fall apart. But, as good as the track is, it doesn’t end up fitting on the record, and feels removed from the rest of the songs.
We've all had a Johnny or two in our lives, the kind of couch-surfing ne'er-do-well who possesses just enough of that wiley troubadour charm that eventually convinces you to let him crash for an extra day. You look forward to the cryptic postcards, the soon-to-be party-favored stories-- hell, you even make him an honorary member of the band. You might even try to channel his spirit animal through your new LP, however vague a seance it ends up being.