From inside a stately home on a broad but otherwise quiet avenue in the twisted lakeside town of Erie, Pa., guitars moan and tambourines rattle like the pitter-patter of little ones' feet. It's here, in the home of John Johnston and Gina Rullo, that Erie's surprisingly vibrant music scene takes root -- both in the form of the studio Johnston operates and in the guise of Telefonics, the neo-psych group fronted by this estimable duo. Studio and band have come together to crank out Hip Flip Colours, Telefonics' second (and best) batch of paisley-swathed and feedback-swaddled pop.
Telefonics' music is obviously reared on a who's-who of 20th-century musical revolutions: The Sonics and Sonic Youth; The Monkees and "Monkey Gone to Heaven"; bubblegum-pop Buddha Records on the path to noisy Nirvana. There are songs here such as "California," reflecting the '60s West Coast vein mined by the likes of Orange Peels, slack anthems a la Pavement, such as "Yellow Summer Revisited," and scream-sung feedback festivals such as "Explosion." Telefonics are well versed in each, concentrating on Rullo's femme-fatale vocals and the songs' innate melodic appeal.
The occasional problem with Hip Flip Colours is that the switch from face to face on this psychedelic Eve is so evident as to be nearly tangible -- at times, one can almost hear the band's decision-making process, rather than a subtle shift in tone or posture. So when, for example, the distorted vocals on "Hey Hey Hey" or the 1969 guitar onslaught in "Heart Attack" come in, their abruptness can be a bit eyebrow-raising.
But as a statement of psych-purpose, HFC showcases Telefonics' relentless pursuit of the hallucinogen-enhanced candy of swirling melody: As an obvious influence once put it, this music is "red with purple flashes."