Although both the band name and album title are pretty horrible, Strawberry Smell's debut album, Odorama, is a solid piece of psych pop that respects the traditions of the genre without being constrained by them. Although the requisite fuzzy/jangly guitars and Byrds-influenced harmonies are here in spades, the songs on Odorama are built on lead singer Cyril Jean's Farfisa organ and vintage Moog synthesizers. That blast of icy retro-futurism links Strawberry Smell both to '60s experimentalists like the United States of America or the Silver Apples and to later guardians of the analog synth sound like the band's fellow Frenchmen Tahiti 80 or Air. Unlike all of those bands, however, Jean and the other Smellers (guitarist and bassist Christophe and Olivier Valliant and drummer Cyrille Mazella) are primarily interested in pop hooks, not cool sounds. Like no psych pop revival album since Cotton Mather's 1998 gem Kon-Tiki, Odorama has melodies and (English language) lyrics that measure up to the clever arrangements and production. The perfect touches like the horns at the end of "Friends of Da Teenage" and the funky organ rave-up in the middle of the heavy-psych "Balthazar" would be much less impressive if the songs themselves weren't so instantly engaging. Unfortunately, some of these songs overstay their welcome by a minute or so each. Odorama is a great album, but with some judicious pruning it could have been a classic.
by Stewart Mason