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Low Flying Owls

Elixir Vitae
Stinky

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Rejoice, psych fans. If the Elephant 6 stable (Apples In Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control) has proven a bit precious and twee, while garage revivalists such as the White Stripes come across a bit too stripped-down and basic (and precious), look no further than Sacramento quartet Low Flying Owls.

The Owls' label, Stinky, aptly describes them as an intermeshing of British shoe-gazer with California psych-pop, and I can find no fault with that, other than to add a bit of Detroit Rock City distortion. Certainly charismatic, languorous singer/guitarist Jared Southard has carefully studied the lineage of successful psych bands on both sides of the Big Pond -- Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Spiritualized, My Bloody Valentine -- and he knows what works.

Starting with the hypnotic wah-wah Spacemen punk of "Glad to Be Alive," with its clarion call of "Where has my faith gone?" -- the Owls base their power on walls of buzzing guitars and loping rhythms. This impact is made stronger by tremendous attention to production detail: punchy, pristine and exquisitely layered. Tasteful guitar-effect soundscapes mix with unexpected sonic flavorings such as the trumpet solo and electric piano on "Looks of a Killer."

"Strange Connection" and the spacey instrumental "Babies Made" explore the other side of psychedelia with reverbed three-part harmonies and saccharine strings, easily connecting with the well-trod boomer aesthetic of The Beatles and Moody Blues, plus current British artists such as Super Furry Animals. "Mama Said" sows a furrow of the Bad Seeds with dark touches and brooding organ. In fact, a lot of the songs have keyboard or synth colorings which round out a "baroque" listening experience. For the closest above-ground analogue, misguided Smashing Pumpkins fans could cure their malaise with a spoon of the Low Flying Owls' "how-to" medicine. There's nothing new here, but the package is so solid that it's hard to otherwise complain.

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