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Someone's got a train set and that's a thing I'm for...
on 14 August 2009
We Are Ever So Clean is the stunning debut album by the band Blossom Toes. The album is one of the finest example of psychedelic pop that Britain produced. It has such a quintessentially British charm to it, much like The Village Green Preservation Society, with songs about alarm clocks, tea, hot air balloons and budgerigars. There is also a strong comedy element to the album, it has quite a whimsical sense of humour, especially the short spoken introductions to each track. It is that wonderful sense of humour that makes this album such a pleasure to listen to, it is certainly one of the happiest albums in my collection!
The band started out in 65/66 as The Ingoes, playing R&B music, until they were snapped up by Giorgio Gomelsky, renamed as the more psychedelic Blossom Toes, and signed up to his new Marmalade label. Jim Cregan and Brian Godding were the two main songwriters in the band, but it was Gomelsky who was responsible for sending them in a more psychedelic direction, bringing in session musicians to add overdubs to the basic tracks recorded by the band. The band apparently weren't too keen on this, but I think the results speak for themselves!
The album opens with Look At Me I'm You, which has a very interesting opening, I think it involves piano notes being played backwards and xylophones. There's something very disjointed sounding about the song, but it works so well, as does the backwards guitar breaks and flutes in the background. It is definately "psychedelic", and not a conventional pop song! I know I said that this was a very happy album, but the lyrics in this song are actually fairly bleak, with lyrics like "The air is black with coal dust from smokey chimney pots", and "poor old johnny, he was poorly" and so on. It keeps you on your toes (no pun intended) with little interludes including a nice acoustic section and towards the end the song drops out and a brass band start playing (very British!). A very interesting opener!
The glorious I'll Be Late For Tea comes next. It is a lot more upbeat that the opening track, and is essentially a song about someone who is running late for a tea engagement. The vocals on this track are sublime, especially the harmonies which are perfect. The rythm section is actually pretty heavy, in contrast to some of the overdubs that Gomelsky has added which features gentle flute and trumpet. Overall this juxtaposition works really well, and the tracks is one of my favourites!
The bizarre The Remarkable Saga Of The Frozen Dog comes next, it is a very very odd song, which may have been the result of taking too much LSD. The guitars certainly sound like they are on acid, as do the bizarre background vocals (which consist of odd noises rather than singing)! The track is possibly my least favourite on the album, I think it is a bit too odd for my tastes!
The next track Telegram Tuesday is a nice upbeat pop song, again featuring a strong rythm section and some lush harmonies, along the same lines as I'll Be Late For Tea, although it is not quite as good. It is follwed by Love Is which is quite a slow and sombre love song, featuring great orchestration containing vibes, chello, harp and flutes. I don't think slow ballads were the groups forte, but it is not a bad song.
The whimsy returns in full force with the excellent What's It For?. The production on this track is fantastic, the chello works so well as do the latin sounding trumpets. The lyrics are certainly whimsical "What's it for, the mere existence of a door, is something to be grateful for". It's a good, upbeat track, well worth a listen!
The whimsy goes up a level on the next track, The People of The Royal Parks. This song is yet again very British, the lyrics are all about park keepers and parliament and the Sunday papers. I don't know if words can do this song justice, it is just fantastic. I actually have goosebumps listening to it right now! Its an upbeat singalong song with a great rythm, lovely harpsichord, oboes, strings and a blaring brass section, and towards the end it erupts into a Mellow Yellowesque party! It's definately one of the best tracks on the album, and indeed one of the best psych pop tracks of all times surely!
What On Earth is another great track, and the lyrics contain the albums title; "We are ever so clean, cleaner than the top of a washing machine". There is once again wonderful orchestration and great harmonies. It is another wonderful track, the bass sounds very interesting, almost like a wobble board in fact
.My favourite song of the album is next, easily equalling the whimsy of The People of The Royal Parks, it is the smile inducing Mrs. Murphy's Budgerigar. This song feels like a warm blanket around me when I listen to it, I don't know where to start talking about it. The backing track is fantastic, starting with guitar, bass, drums and harpsichord in a great bouncy rythm, but eventually building up to include strings, oboes, and brass (there is a great trumpet solo towards the end). The vocals are great, featuring some of their best harmonies. The lyrics are great too, the song has a very toytown feel to it, it covers the topics of lost budgerigars, trainsets and buying bicycles. It is an utterly fantastic song, worth the price of the album!
I Will Bring You This And That is another upbeat bouncy sort of song, it seems to have escaped the overdubbing however, as it consists of simply guitar, drums and bass. It works very well however, and the harmonies once again sound wonderful. The lyrics are very odd indeed; "I will bring you plastic flowers, you can play with them for hours".Mister Watchmaker is the next track, another slow, sombre track. It's quite lovely however, featuring plenty of orchestration in the background. I really like the melody, particularly in the bridge section. It is interesting to compare the song to Mr. Small the Watch Repairer Man by Kaleidoscope. Perhaps they are singing of the same person? Who knows.
The next track is When the Alarm Clock Rings is a pretty good song, the bass playing in it is great, and the little bits of orchestration which have been added work really well. Overall there is a feeling of urgency to the song, which is fitting I suppose as it is a song about time.
The Intrepid Balloonists Handbook, Volume 1 is another odd track, definately displaying their sense of humour! The track features a lot of accordian ond organ, and is sang with an exaggerated British accent, and is about hot air balloons. It's all very Monty Python! It ends with "Really, you're going ever so high Felicity, we'll never be able to reach you now!".
You is a great track, very upbeat, great vocals, and lovely production. For some reason it never stood out much for me on the album, but as I listen to it, it's definately a good song! It just lacks the character and charm of some of the previous tracks.The original album closes with Track For Speedy Freaks (Or Instand LP Digest), it isn't a proper song as such, just an amalgamation of the previous songs, all played over each other at once producing this cacophony of sound. Experimental for its time, and perhaps it sounds good when you are high.
The Sundazed reissue adds several bonus tracks to the album. The best of these are the LP out take Everybody's Talkin which is a really good upbeat pop song with really good vocals, probably dropped from the album in favour of one of the more wacky tracks! Their non LP single is also included, a cover of Bob Dylans I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, which is very good, and prominently features some odd sounding metallic instrument that I can't quite work out! It's a very interesting cover all the same! We Are Ever So Clean is a very fun album, I can't recommend it enough to 60s pop fans. The songwriting is excellent, and the vocals are very distinctive throughout. It for me epitomises the comic, funloving side of British psychedelic pop, as much as Piper At The Gates Of Dawn represents the cosmic side, Tangerine Dream represents the fairytale side and World of Oz represents the childlike side. It is a must have album, it will surely put a smile on your face!