T. Swift & the Electric Bag

Are You Experienced?

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No one besides the folks who made Are You Experienced? knew exactly who T. Swift, let alone his Electric Bag, was. You could lay down good money, however, that Are You Experienced? is a psychsploitation toss-off. The record smacks of a group of grizzled, thirty-something, Sunset Strip sessionmen trying their hand at the groovy pop sounds of the day, on the strict orders of label suits with chic sideburns looking to make a quick buck off the amusements of the hippies and flower children. As cynical as that sounds, it doesn't take a Herculean stretch of the brainpan to imagine a quick, beer-fueled recording session leading to the music that graces the album. Whoever the faux-longhairs who made it actually were, though, in the process of laying down a half-dozen truly innocuous facsimiles of the way-out '60s sounds -- "A Jet" is a straight cop of the Box Tops' "The Letter," "Take It Easy Baby" literally is Classics IV's "Spooky" -- they somehow managed to stumble on a handful of startlingly inspired moments. "Free Form in 6," in particular, is a jolting freakout (think Chocolate Watchband by way of the Doors) that taps into some sort of zoned-out consciousness through its lulling jazz rhythms, fuzz bass, and ominous organ runs. Slightly less sublime but still outstanding are cuts like the surf go-go "The Stinger" and "Expo in Sound," while "What's Your Bag?" has a spooky acid-washed guitar solo amid its slick, sub-Byrdsian raga noodling. And there is something goose-pimple creepy about the lurching, minimalistic, otherworldly version of the Jimi Hendrix title track that belies its origin. Even the most contrived cuts on the album -- most in pale Booker T. mold -- are wonderful in the way that only the most disposable, plastic muzak of the '60s seems to be. The songs aren't suitable for more than a couple close listens, but they might be precisely the background soundtrack required for -- well, that can be left to the imagination. The mystery surrounding the band may be the only thing keeping most of us listening to this platter some 30 years after it was hatched in some swank boardroom or other, but it really does have a few moments worthy of at least a degree of attention. If most of it blows smoke in our faces, that seems to be all some latter-day psych fanatics listen for anyway.

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