The Squires of the Subterrain

Liquid Sundays

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Liquid Sundays marks the instant in which the Squires of the Subterrain not only came into their own as an artistic forum for Christopher Earl, but also reached the beginning of an early -- and exceptional -- peak of songcraft. The album is a baby pop masterpiece in every way, a recording that may not work on the same architectural scale as the progressive pop masterworks of the mid-'60s (Revolver, Forever Changes, Face to Face, Smiley Smile, Present Tense), but that nevertheless aspires to the same majestic heights. Nearly every moment sounds timeless, from the Turtles-esque "bop ba ba bas" on the opening, "Love Is Like the Sun," to the pacific harmonies of the title track. Trimmed with enchanting and quaint lyrics, it seems to hang off in its own fairy tale world. But it is Earl's careful attention to textural detail that makes the album the unqualified work of art that it is. Such ecstatic utterances tend to be at least a whiff hyperbolic even for the strongest of albums, let alone one released independently and originally cassette-only -- not to mention a couple generations after its nearest models -- but in the case of Liquid Sundays, they barely do the music justice. The two-song suite, consisting of "Sun Dials Melt (In the Sun)" and "Shadows Growing (In the Shade)," provides a formidably wistful and crystalline acoustic center of gravity from which the rest of the album beautifully blooms. Particularly strong are "Cherry Creek Lane" (what the Turtles might have sounded like had they covered a Kinks song) and "Caught in the Colors," which cleverly purloins the opening piano melody from the Bee Gees' whimsical "Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy of Art," alters it slightly, and emerges with an endearing gem of its own considerable luster. Liquid Sundays does peter out a hair toward the very end, but the heavy resonance that it leaves occurs well before the last note is struck, and so it loses none of its impact. Had it been released 25 years earlier, half the songs could have been commercial hits, the kind of tunes that define moments in the lives of their listeners. Instead, it stands as a little untapped treasure worthy of rediscovery on a grand scale.

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