Red Dissolving Rays of Light

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In the mid-'60s era that San Diego's the Loons like to recall, record contracts required artists to make a couple of LPs and a few singles per year. Red Dissolving Rays of Light, however, is only the Loons' third full-length collection in ten years, suggesting that it may be harder to re-create the musical style they love than it was to create it in the first place. That musical style is garage rock. On their last album, 2004's Paraphernalia, the Loons edged into the psychedelic sound of 1967, but they have dialed the time machine back a notch for Red Dissolving Rays of Light, so that the calendar doesn't read any later than December 1966. In that month, one-hit wonders the Music Machine ("Talk Talk") and the Seeds ("Pushin' Too Hard") were in the charts, while Count Five ("Psychotic Reaction") had just dropped off the Hot 100. The Loons evoke the sound of such acts, from the driving rhythm section to the stinging guitar lines and Mike Stax's often sneering vocals. Stax's lyrics, meanwhile, also have been dialed back somewhat from the more imagistic efforts he contributed to Paraphernalia. In his more straight-forward statements here, he tends to be downcast about life and love, with occasional, unaccountable moments of optimism. In "Summer's End," for example, the verses detail a bad romance ("How can I get relief/When all you do is give me grief?"), yet the chorus insists things will turn out all right: "But we'll all fall in love again/When we reach the summer's end." Stax is sometimes more ambitious lyrically, even reflecting on World War I in "Orphan Wing," but he refrains from waxing as poetic as he has in the past, just as his band sticks to a harder sound with its music.

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