The Neo-psychedelic movement has been good to Chicago. In fact, I think our town has played a huge role in the formation of this new psych movement that has been gaining momentum for the last two decades. The Red Plastic Buddha are a major part of Chicago’s psychedelic scene that deserve your attention.

With almost 10 years of experience behind them, and 3 full length LPs out, you may very well already be “in the know”. For those that have yet to be seduced by their sweet, melodic, psych pop stylings, here is a look at their latest release, Songs For Mara.

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Following their impressive 2011 album All Out Revolution, had to have been a nerve-racking process. Luckily, Songs for Mara stays true to the qualities that worked so well on Revolution but is not afraid to explore new territory. Even with songs that are often times a bit darker thematically, the album as a whole maintains its pop sensibilities.

The opening track “She’s an Alien” features some gorgeous ’60s inspired melodies that when paired with layers of keys and guitar noise, make for a track that sounds just as modern as it does vintage.

“Little White Pills” is a bit more atmospheric. The song meanders from driving psychedelic rock sound into a slow, ethereal chorus and back, effortlessly. Just when you think it’s done, it kicks back in with a gentle build up of hypnotic drums and guitars that lead into one last rave-up.

The third track, “Being Human”,  brings with it a more somber, introspective tone. It has some of the qualities found in the quieter side of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, namely a well placed flute solo. Lyrically, the song is a thought-provoking and overtly existential number. Especially in the line, “I’m no good at being human”, repeated throughout the chorus.

Bringing the album back into the upbeat melodic pop sound you’ve come to love, is “Go”. The track builds to a wall of sound that provides the perfect backdrop for bassist/singer Tim Ferguson’s lyrics laden with psychedelic imagery of dinosaurs, war, and supersonic minotaurs. Easily a favorite of mine and one of the album’s standouts.

“Go” ends in a raucous noise jam that  leads right into “Staring into the Void”, a Syd Barrett era, Pink Floydian, collage of sounds and voices. The track ends with a haunting chorus of whispers telling you,”It’s not over yet…” And it’s not.

Straddling the midpoint of the album, “A House is Not a Motel” is a psych rock masterpiece. The combination of screeching guitar solos, pounding drums, and some fast tambourines really make this track hard to ignore.

“Trip Inside This House” is an upbeat rocker that sounds right out of the ’70s prog rock scene. It “shreds” a bit more than the rest of the album but doesn’t feel out of place at all.

Skipping ahead a few tracks, the energy of the album doesn’t wane one bit as it comes to a close. “Cosmonaut” is catchy as hell, it sounds like Stereolab if they had been around a few decades earlier.

Songs for Mara ends on high note. The last two tracks “Girl Like You” and “Stuck on Zero” both have all of the elements that make a classic psych tune. They’d fit right in on a Nuggets compilations, among all of the other unearthed psychedelic gems from the ’60s and ’70s.

All in all, Songs for Mara is a great addition to the band’s discography. They break out of their psychedelic shell a bit, in favor of a more guitar/keyboard driven rock sound. That being said, there are still plenty of trippy, psychedelic moments to keep you entranced.

Stream the rest of the album free via bandcamp, and keep an eye out for a limited CD/Vinyl release, coming soon via Space Cat Records.

Upcoming Shows

August 21st Stadium Green at Soldier Field

September 11th Burlington Bar

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