The Flower Machine

Lavender Lane

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"Can you hear the flowers sing?/The mushroom palace glittering?/And instead of getting high, you just stay low?" With those lines, backed by a throbbing bassline, organ swells, and some reverse gear percussion and tape loops, Peter Quinnell of the Flower Machine lets his listeners know just where he's taking them within the first 30 seconds of the group's third album, 2010's Lavender Lane, and if the destination isn't the Center of the Mind, it's clearly somewhere in the same neighborhood. Quinnell and his collaborators obviously have no fear of getting too trippy, and Lavender Lane is a strikingly accomplished re-creation of vintage psychedelia, with the sharp buzz of the guitars buffered by the languid report of the bass and the clouds of organ and Mellotron hovering overhead. Quinnell is clever enough to get more than just the surfaces right on this set; if the lyrics sometimes read like lysergic psychobabble, in context they sound just right, and Quinnell's lead vocals, guitars, percussion and keyboards bring the psych era back to life rather than just making a zombie of the style, and his bandmates (Brian Webster on guitar and keys, Chris Shulda on bass, and Lori Black on vocals and tambourine) clearly understand the finer points of this music as well as he does. (Frequent Robert Pollard collaborator Todd Tobias also pitches in on five tunes.) Quinnell's melodies are just as lovely and true to the era as the performances, and the graceful feel of this material is pleasing from start to finish, whether the tunes sound pastoral, introspective or reaching for a creative peak only the musicians can see. Can you hear the sound of purple? On Lavender Lane, the Flower Machine surely can, and on this album, they're happy to let you know just what it's like.

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