Rain Parade – Beyond the Sunset

January 01, 1970

(Lemon/Cherry Red)





In the summer of ’86 – July, to be precise – Cali-based
sonic alchemists the Rain Parade blitzed a path down the East Coast, and by the
time the quintet crossed over the Virginia border into North Carolina, it was
as if Sherman’s Army had been transmogrified into musical stormtroopers,
deploying their scorched earth policy upon all lingering notions about the
so-called “Paisley Underground.” Initially one of the torchbearers of that
loose aggregate of psychedelia-tilting West Coast outfits that included the
Dream Syndicate, Salvation Army/Three O’Clock, Green On Red, Long Ryders, True
West and the Bangles, this Rain
Parade, five years on since forming in L.A. in 1981, was a powerhouse purveyor
of atmospheric rawk that, while
retaining sufficient trappings to still be loosely described as “psychedelic,” was
so free-ranging, incorporating elements of prog, punk, classic pop and
roots-folk, as to be nigh-on unclassifiable.


To this day, I can still remember the opening moments of the
band’s set: with the heat and humidity index so high there was literally steam
coming off the players’ bodies and amps, they launched into the sinewy,
throbbing “No Easy Way Down” (one of the band’s signature tracks, from their
’84 mini-album Explosions in the Glass
). And in that moment, amid flanging, modal-laced guitar leads, eerie
organ drone and labyrinthine bottom end, I and no doubt a hundred-odd other
clubgoers were sucked into a 70-minute vortex of prismic sound and no shortage
of synaptic discombobulation. Yeah, the show was psychedelic as fuck, but this
wasn’t your mama’s hippiedelica. Rather, the songs were informed by the
ground-up urgency of punk to yield taut, precision-arranged constructs within
which the mind was freed to roam. Staggering into the summer night sometime
later, staring up at the 2:00 a.m. moon, which just two days’ earlier had
passed through its full phase (look it up), I could swear I spotted the ol’ Man
up there smirking back at me…


This all comes rushing back to me now, listening to the CD
reissue of Beyond the Sunset,
originally recorded live a year and a half earlier during the Rain Parade’s
December 1984 tour of Japan and subsequently released in Britain on the Island
label. A stellar line recording that gets high marks for its crisp mix and
even-handed instrumental separation (vocals are prominent but don’t unnecessarily
dominate, either), BtS serves as both
a delightful flashback and righteous introduction to the musical prowess of the
Rain Parade – Matt Piucci, guitars and vocals; Will Glenn, keyboards and
violin; Steven Roback, bass and vocals; John Thoman, guitars and vocals; Mark
Marcum, drums.


The album showcases all the operative sides of the band’s collective
personality: there’s elegant electric folk (“Eyes Closed,” featuring haunting
violin solo from Glenn); pulsing, intensely melodic garage-rock (“This Can’t Be
Today”); dreamy, almost Beatlesesque pop (“Don’t Feel Bad”); and full on,
cortex-crunching psych (“No Easy Way Down,” which should be a mainstay of any
self-respecting playlist purporting to collect the Best Tunes From The 1980s).
Also in the setlist is a pair of key covers. One pays homage to a band that was
a huge influence on the band members (and, indeed, the entire Paisley
Underground): Television, whose “Ain’t That Nothing” here is rendered in
appropriately kinetic terms to approach borderline anthemic. The other tips a
hat (or five) in the direction of a Rain Parade peer: Green On Red, by way of
GoR frontman’s timeless, bittersweet confessional “Cheap Wine.” On the latter,
guests Steve Wynn and Dennis Duck from the Dream Syndicate pitch in on
guitar/vocals and tambourine, respectively, further reinforcing the circle of
solidarity that marked the loose scene they were part of. For those with long
memories, the tune’s a lump-in-throat moment impossible to avoid: these were our groups, and they meant something.


Veteran liner notesman (and BLURT contributor) Jud Cost
serves up an extended commentary for the Beyond
the Sunset
booklet, providing a birds-eye history of the Rain Parade – like
me, he was smitten early on by their charms – and suggesting that the group’s
legacy still looms large. He quotes Piucci (nowadays fronting Oakland outfit boatclub),
who says, “In a small way, we were sort of like what Brian Eno said about the
Velvet Underground, that everybody who bought their records started a band.”
Adds Cost, “And yet, like most bands built for the long haul whose influence
has spread like ripples in a pond, Rain Parade retains its own unique musical
footprint.” Amen to that.


So here I am in my office now, staring at the record sleeves
of my original Island LPs for Beyond the
and Crashing Dream (the ’85
album that the Rain Parade was touring behind when I saw them live). They bear
the scrawled signatures of five musicians, a detail I’d somehow forgotten from
that hot, hazy, humid, hallucinogenic night. Come to think of it, except for
what I described above, I don’t remember a whole lot about the evening. I
dearly wish I could now, because as these things turn out, the Rain Parade
broke up not long after that tour.


Thanks, anyway, for the memories guys. How’s about putting
the show back on the road again and let’s work up some fresh ones?


Easy Way Down,” “This Can’t Be Today,” “Cheap Wine” FRED MILLS


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