Yacht – See Mystery Lights

January 01, 1970

(DFA Records)




Yacht’s See Mystery Lights is a record of mantras. Some lyrical,
some instrumental. Nearly every tune has one (or more). It’s an odd mix of
inane pop funtras and spirituality, but generally each distracts from the other
so neither direction comes off very convincingly. It’s like meditating on a
joke. Can the two mix? But the child-like playfulness of their songwriting is
occasionally contagious and their retro 70s/80s studio sounds (drum machines,
synthesizers, vocal processing, etc…) and beats can be entertaining – mostly in
a goofy sort of way. 


The lyrics, vocals, and music are all regularly delivered in what comes
off as a “nudge nudge wink wink,” highly affected, sarcastic style and the
repetition can be annoying like a knife in your brain if you can’t reach a
place where you laugh it off or go with the flow. The more successful vocals
sound like a mix of Debra Harry, The Talking Heads, B52s, and Lou Reed (some
are nearly spoken word). The intent may often be irony but it sometimes comes
off as merely mocking, though it can work. Often it’s just contradictory and a
little shallow; just revealing the trailhead of what could’ve been an
interesting path to follow. The first track’s (“Ring The Bell”) mantra goes,
“Will we go to heaven?/Or will we go to hell?/It’s my understanding/That
neither are real,” adding later “It became clear/There’s no one else here.”
Whereas the immediately following track’s (“The Afterlife”) mantra goes, “It
may come as a surprise/But you are not alone/All that you have/Is not what you
own.” Those two mantras don’t have to be seen as contradictory, but couched in
their light, clever and poppy sheen they both come off rather weightless. But
fun: We’re deep – let’s party!             


Band leader Jona Bechtolt and company are at their most creative when
manipulating studio toys, editing tracks, and getting neato cool sounds from
synthesizers. Each tune on See Mystery Lights comes off as an
arrangement of toy Lincoln Logs. The pieces fit but they’re easily identified
as pieces. There’s never the feeling of a band. It feels like a project. And that’s fine for what it is. By the way, Yacht stands for “Young Americans
Challenging High Technology.” Pretty clever. How’s that working out for you?


Standout Tracks: “Ring
the Bell,” “We
Have All We’ve Ever Wanted” JOHN DWORKIN



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