Ultra Prophets of Thee Psykick Revolution

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Although it received largely negative reviews upon its release -- apparently, many reviewers took the sarcastic pseudo-psychedelia of the title and cover art as proof that this was a years-late attempt to jump the paisley underground bandwagon -- the second album by the Boston quirk-pop trio Christmas is actually an improvement on their modest debut. 1986's In Excelsior Day-Glo had its merits, but the low-key production made the songs sound more alike than they really were. The much more varied sounding Ultraprophets doesn't have that problem, as it skips blithely from the catchy, harmony-heavy college rock of the opening "Stupid Kids" to the angular, sneering "Richard Nixon" (a surreal character study positing the disgraced ex-president as a thousand-year-old vampire with supernatural powers) to the delicate, almost folky jangle pop of "This Is Not a Test." Though the lyrics are just as odd as on the earlier album, the songs are less likely to be simply "funny," with strange and mildly disturbing images popping up regularly, as in the matter-of-fact details of domestic violence in the ironically catchy, girl group-influenced "Punch and Judy." The album closes with the strangely beautiful "Hymn," a swirling melody for string quartet with the most opaque lyrics and disjointed singing of the album.

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