The Upshot: The kind of melody-rich, texturally-complex album whose dreamy psychedelic pop repays repeated spins many times over.
BY FRED MILLS
Background-wise, Cali’s Hellenes are a Matt Piucci-helmed project featuring, unsurprisingly, compatriots from his other projects, Boatclub and the Rain Parade—the latter you just may have heard of. (Go HERE and HERE for further elucidation from the Blurt gang on the beloved Paisley Underground icons.) Piucci is no stranger to multitasking, of course, with both Crazy Horse and a solo career—including a collaboration with the Windbreakers’ Tim Lee way back in ‘86—also occupying his time at various points. A busy, prolific man. The Hellenes, in fact, take their name from a 2000 Piucci solo rec of the same name, a couple of the bandmembers (bassist Alec Palao, guitarist John Thoman) having appeared on Hellenes.
And from the gorgeous, impressionistic sleeve art (by Stefanie Beltran), to the roster of guest musicians (among them, Crazy Horse’s Billy Talbot, Brent Rademaker of Beechwood Sparks/Tyde/GospelbeacH fame, Brian Wilson percussionist Nelson Bragg, and Jody Stephens from some obscure band from Memphis called Big Star), to the expansive-yet-inner-focused music itself, I Love You All the Animals is a remarkable rendering of grace and beauty, imbued with the psychedelic imperative and multihued perspective that has consistently powered Piucci’s musical vision over the years.
The Hellenes initially opt to set the stage with a twinned statement-of-purpose: the introductory “Chesterene,” a lovely, harmony-drenched number that tips a hat (or 10) to classic midperiod Beach Boys, is followed by the dreamy, languid, overtly Beatlesque (circa Abbey Road) “Fault.” At that point they shift gears and steer purposefully into Rain Parade territory via the urgent, propulsive “Better Place,” all laser-sharp riffs and pounding percussion, plus a deeply convincing vocal from Piucci (“this world won’t be a better place without you“). And the hits keep a-comin’ from there, among them a Big Star-esque rocker, “So Depressed”; the jangly psychedelia of “Beautiful Flower”; and closing track “Water,” an ornate, neo-orchestral gem featuring violin, viola, and cello.
It’s the kind of melody-rich, texturally-complex album that repays repeated spins many times over. And for music fans already familiar with the musicians’ prior work, it’s a welcome-back, friendly-handshake record that serves to remind you, we’re all in this club together. Keep the tunes coming, Matt.
Consumer Note: The album’s available digitally and on CD right now, and Piucci reports it’s coming on vinyl as well in May.
DOWNLOAD: “Better Place,” “Water,” “Fault”