The Chrysanthemums' second album is a two-record parody of such overblown progressive rock concept albums as Yes' Tales of Topographic Oceans and Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick. Housed in a gold-on-black sleeve-covered front, back and spine with fake hieroglyphics, the double album comes with a lengthy sleeve note written by guitarist Alan Jenkins explaining the album's inspiration and detailing the complicated story the 27 songs purport to tell. The Pythonesque story has something to do with giant eggplants from outer space and a time-traveling World War II bi-plane. The songs, of course, are entirely unconnected, both to the concept and to each other. Ranging in length from 27 seconds to just over seven minutes, these songs are simultaneously instantly catchy and deeply strange. Jenkins and singer/keyboardist Terry Burrows have a knack for psych-influenced pop songs that wouldn't sound out of place on Carnaby Street-era Kinks and Who records, but their lyrics are a weird mix of Bonzo Dog Band-style humor, bizarre imagery, and throwaway references to pop culture figures from soul legend Harold Melvin to U.K. television personality Lucinda Lambton. The five-minute "God and the Dave Clark Five" embodies the eclectic spirit of the album in microcosm, moving from a bouncy freakbeat verse to a middle section of Krautrocky drones and chants, ending up with a Hendrix-like noise guitar solo by way of a direct quote from the Monkees' theme song. Elsewhere, "(They Must Have Made It With Their) Hats" marries a circa-1966 Beatles melody with backing vocals that substitute random three-syllable words (aubergine, Reginald, mandolin, etc.) for the expected "la-la-las," and "Light Transforms the Peugeot Dealers" mixes ukulele and sampled horns manipulated to sound like steam escaping from some huge forbidding machine. The stylistic shifts make sense as a whole, and the album is dense and melodic enough to stand up to repeated listens. Headphones are recommended to capture the subtleties of the rather muddy homemade production, however.
Little Flecks of Foam Around Barking Review
by Stewart Mason