John and Amanda Ylvisaker

Cool Livin'

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John Ylvisaker's first LP is one of those records that you wouldn't believe actually existed if the aural evidence wasn't preserved as proof. Christian rock with the cheesiest of garage rock organs and slithery Eastern-influenced quasi-psychedelic guitar lines, occasionally embellished with florid flute, delivered in a shaky, low croon suggestive of a wannabe Jim Morrison who can't quite hold all his notes? It sounds like a satire of an obscure psychedelic LP review, or perhaps a description of a band in a Z-grade late-'60s exploitation movie that few have ever seen. But it's real, and in fact was cited in Jello Biafra's chapter on some of his favorite weird records in the book Incredibly Strange Music Volume II. Cool Livin' is weird, like hearing an alternate universe, hardcore Christian version of the Doors that can't sing or play with a fraction of the same skill. There's plenty to make fun of if you're so inclined, especially the full-of-himself over-seriousness of Ylvisaker's vocals (which are more lounge lizard than the Lizard King, to be brutal), and the frequent ragged sloppiness of the band. Yet it's also enjoyable on some levels, though how many levels will click will depend very much on your taste, and your enthusiasm for inept-but-sincere psychedelic rock that's unaware of how foolish it sounds. The band do play with a sense of drama, the raw ominous garage-psychedelia can at times be genuinely haunting, and Ylvisaker's occasional intoned spoken passages (another pseudo-Morrisonism) are so peculiar that they're somewhat entertaining.