BY MICHAEL TOLAND
The Three O’Clock was, in many ways, the junior partner in the Paisley Underground (despite bandleader Michael Quercio giving the loose affiliation of likeminded pals its name). With its twinkly synthesizers, upbeat poppy melodies and Quercio’s distinctively fey singing, a lot of folks assumed the band was a latecomer to the 80s new wave party.
While there’s certainly some truth to that (check out the Haircut One Hundred-channeling “When Lightning Starts”), the psychedelic strain that powered most of the Underground runs deep in the Three O’Clock, as The Hidden World Revealed, a compilation of hits and rarities, proves. Alternating between lysergic lyrics and acid pop melodies, “Stupid Einstein,” “Around the World,” the anthemic “Jet Fighter” and “With a Cantaloupe Girlfriend” (possibly the quintessential T O’C track) boast irresistible hooks, sparkling production and just enough weirdness to make you think “Huh?” as you sing along. Demos of “Sound Surround” and “The Girl With the Guitar (Says Oh Yeah)” show the band with a fully-developed vision, and alternate versions of “In My Own Time” (originally recorded by the Bee Gees, no less), “I Go Wild,” “On My Own” and “A Day in Erotica” neither add to nor subtract from the power of the originals. In this context, covers of the Byrds’ “Feel a Whole Lot Better” and Pink Floyd’s “Lucifer Sam” seem like gilding the lily.
The setlist draws mainly from Baroque Hoedown and Sixteen Tambourines – generally considered the band’s best work – and gives later LPs Arrive Without Travelling and Ever After shorter shrift than they deserve. (The underrated, Prince-patronized Vermillion is ignored completely.) Unusually for the 80s era, the keyboards and nods to then-current trends keep the tracks fresh – this was a band making modern music inspired by the past, rather than mired in it. That’s a fair description of the Paisley Underground in general, which just goes to show that the Three O’Clock deserves its place in the pantheon.
DOWNLOAD: “Jet Fighter,” “With a Cantaloupe Girlfriend,” “In My Own Time”