The Free Design

Cosmic Peekaboo

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For the 2000 release of the superb Beach Boys tribute album Caroline Now!, the legendary Free Design reunited for the first time in three decades, stealing the spotlight from the band's indie pop descendants with a beautifully poetic rendition of "Endless Harmony." The full-length follow-up Cosmic Peekaboo restores the group's brilliance to its original luster, reassembling the founding lineup of siblings Chris, Sandy, and Bruce Dedrick for a remarkable comeback effort that more than lives up to the standard of their past classics. Resisting the temptation to incorporate even a dash of the electronic pop approaches of avowed acolytes like Stereolab, the High Llamas, and Cornelius, on Cosmic Peekaboo the group picks up right where it left off -- although the harmonies are deeper and even richer than before. The infinite warmth and affection at the heart of all the Dedricks' work remains intact, with every note utterly free of the irony and detachment prevalent throughout so much of the music produced in their absence. Although Cosmic Peekaboo's incandescent performances and majestic arrangements barely acknowledge the 30-year gap, the lyrics cast a knowing eye on the Free Design legacy -- the elegiac "Younger Son" evokes vintage classics like "Kites Are Fun" and "My Brother Woody," while "The Hook" updates the group's still-relevant chart lament "2002 - A Hit Song," gently chiding a new generation of navel-pierced pop icons while taking to task the music industry's reliance on style over substance. The record's emotional centerpiece is the haunting "Day Breaks," a sweepingly angelic tribute to sister Stefanie, to whose memory Cosmic Peekaboo is lovingly dedicated.

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