Artful Psychedelic Tunesmithing from Jeff Beam
Jeff Beam hails from Maine. He plays bass in the Milkman’s Union. He also does his own psychedelic pop with an expanse of ideas that literally covers the entire psychedelic genre. He’s playing Pete’s Candy Store on April 14 at 10 PM. And he has an album, Be Your Own Mirror, streaming at his Bandcamp site. As you would imagine, it’s trippy and sometimes pretty dark. The coolest thing about it is how he takes all these old ideas from the 60s and mashes them up: there’s Kinks, and Floyd, and Procol Harum, and the Strawbs side by side and it all makes sense. The only thing missing is the big-room studio production, although to his credit, Beam’s endless layers of overdubs are a good facsimile. What’s most impressive is that like Elliott Smith – an artist who bears some resemblance – Beam plays almost everything here himself except for some drums, horns and strings (yup – the album’s got ‘em).
The first track, Whispering Poison in His Ear evokes the folkie side of Roger Waters circa Obscured by Clouds, with a nice, stinging, tremoloing guitar solo wavering over and under a central note. Hospital Patience is a darkly tiptoeing minor-key late 60s Britfolk tune that builds to an epic majesty with a tasty, fat Robin Trower-ish solo. A two-part instrumental follows that, with mellotron, fuzztone guitar, tempo shifts, an eerie pregnant pause, and then takes on a funky edge.
The strongest cut here is Now. How Beam builds it from a slinky, brooding minor-key blues into an ornate Beatlesque anthem is a clinic in good songwriting. Lyrics don’t seem to be a major part of all this; this one’s the least opaque of all the songs. “I’m going underground…give me a quiet town, all these people chasing me around,” Beam muses.
The rest of the album includes riffy T-Rex style glamrock, an instrumental that looks back to early Genesis, a catchy Kinks-ish pop tune and a warped take on a Penny Lane riff that wouldn’t be out of place in Elliott Smith’s last work. Best thing about this is that’s free – or you can throw some bucks at his bandcamp site if you want. Download it here.