Donovan’s Brain – Fires Which Burnt Brightly

January 01, 1970



You’d be forgiven if off the top of your head you can’t name
many Montana
bands – which, perversely, is what helps Donovan’s Brain stand out. The
long-running brainchild (ahem) of one Ron Sanchez, DB comes up for air every
few years when studio rat Sanchez has a break from his production schedule,
with key releases thus far appearing on the Get Hip and Career labels (the
latter operated by Sanchez and his good buddy Deniz Tek of Radio Birdman). It’s
been four years since the last record, the two-CD A Defeat of Echoes, and this time around he’s got a star-studded
roster of friends pitching in, among them Tek, Roy Loney, Bobby Sutliff (Windbreakers),
Mike Musburger (Posies, Fastbacks) and Jason Lytle (Grandaddy).


“Psychedelia” being an action verb for the Brain, longtime
fans of the band won’t be ill-served by the baker’s-dozen tunes here. Fires Which Burnt Brightly kicks off
with a lush slice of jangledom from Sanchez’ pen: “The Same Mistakes,” with its
12-string, mellotron and tambourine, could pass for an obscure track from the
British Nuggets box – or perhaps an
outtake from those psychedelic psunspotters themselves, the Dukes of Stratosphear.
Another early highlight is Sanchez’ “Broken Glass Corner,” which pirouettes
through the looking glass via a detour down Magical
Mystery Tour
lane (what’s that Jane Fonda namecheck all about, Ron?), while
Sutliff’s chiming, pulsing “You Gotta Go Now” is powerpop cut, not all that
surprisingly, from Windbreakers cloth.


Tracks 7-13 comprise what’s essentially “side two” of the
album and Sanchez describes them as a song cycle with a theme concerning the
“loss of important people and institutions in our lifetime.” There’s a
cinematic instrumental opener, “After the Main Sequence,” followed by guitarist
Colter Langan’s caustic, cautionary garage cruncher “Come For The Sun,” a
meditation upon colonialism and manifest destiny. Tek’s ominous rocker “Vanished”
was apparently slated, initially, for Radio Birdman’s reunion album, but here,
the inclusion of a female vocal foil for Tek gives it an X or Jefferson
Airplane-styled vibe. And the Sanchez-Tek closing track, “Thinking About
Neutrons,” with its Thomas Dolby-like whorl of keyboards and recited vocals, is
inspired looniness at its best; you won’t think about neutrons in quite the
same way again (and of course we all think
of neutrons from time to time, don’t we?).


Consume with a tab or a smoke at your discretion, but the
main thing is to relax, sit back, and turn off the brain – because in this
case, it’s Donovan’s Brain that’s in


Standout Tracks: “You
Gotta Go Now,” “After the Main Sequence,” “Vanished” FRED MILLS


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