The 13th Floor Elevators
t’s bloody difficult to recreate the sound of an electric jug in textual form, you know. I’ve performed a few experiments, but neither ‘wibbawibbawibbawibba’ nor ‘flobbleobbleobbleobble’ seemed quite up to scratch. Everything ends up looking like a freakish childrens television puppet trying to teach the kiddies about multiplication. Nevertheless, electric jug troubles can surely mean only one thing. Yes, it’s time to slap on your wacky pants and prepare for a trip to transcendental central. But get ready to have your hats blown clean off as I reveal that this is a trip... OF THE MIND! Woah.
Your spiritual guides will be these gentlemen with the long hair. That’s right, the damn dirty pinko commie hippies. Don’t fear them; love them. They’re the 13th Floor Elevators and they will be giving a short presentation on the merits of classic psychedelia.
Despite having seemingly consumed a quantity of drugs that would leave most of humanity rolling around on the floor and gibbering about giant space pigeons, some kind of cosmic internal misunderstanding resulted in the Elevators actually recording a selection of bizarre tunes instead. Most of them feature the aforementioned electric jug. Most of them are also pleasingly peachy. Which is, presumably, why Charly stuck a few bonus tracks on Easter Everywhere and gave it a well-deserved reissue.
Here’s what happens when “Slip Inside This House” kicks everything off; ‘wow, this Roky Erickson guy sounds rather intense.’ Eight minutes later, this is what happens; ‘wow, this Roky Erickson guy has been sounding intense for the past eight minutes.’ While various layers of guitar float and intertwine, Erickson drives the song along by reeling off a solid monologue of pseudo-spiritual weirdness. It’s a perfect track for drifting in and out; for gradually losing a sense of time and perspective until recollection of a key phrase or intonation reminds you that, yes, it is still playing. As a statement of intent, it could not be clearer.
Although nothing that follows quite reaches the kaleidoscopic heights of this opening magnificence, some brilliant flashes of colour still emerge. “Levitation” rattles along with a force that belies its floaty title, while spaced-out harmonies add to the druggy love vibes of “She Lives (In A Time Of Her Own)”. The acoustic-led “Dust” and “I Had To Tell You” provide gentle interludes, with subtle touches of harmonica on the latter quietly reminding us; ‘hello, yes, here we are in mid-60s hippy ballad territory ... and everything is going to be ok.’
Stand-out guitar work from Stacy Sutherland wonderfully decorates this album, providing all the necessary shades and highlights for me to stretch my painting metaphors to breaking point (I’m saving the ‘brush with destiny’ pun for a special occasion.) Sutherland should probably have passed up his chance at lead vocals, however. His voice has a kind of gentle mumbling quality to it, perhaps reminiscent of a kindly, yet slightly confused uncle, but doesn’t carry “Nobody to Love” beyond mediocrity.
With the exceptions of an instrumental “Levitation” and ‘lost’ track “I Don’t Ever Want To Come Down”, the bonus material is taken from two different live dates. Helpfully, the songs performed make up a hefty chunk of the tracks from The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators practically giving you two albums in one. Less helpfully, the second set of live stuff seems to have been captured on a dodgy tape-recorder. From inside a cupboard. In space. Still, you can always pretend that you’re listening to an ultra-rare bootleg or something. In fact ... maybe you are. Sound quality on the opening live set is far superior, and manages to capture a surprisingly vibrant band ripping through versions of early material like “You’re Gonna Miss Me.”
Why Charly decided that 2003 would be the perfect time to re-release this album is a slightly baffling mystery. The Elevators seem like a band who would appreciate random gifts of spiritual love though, and in many ways that’s what this reissue is. Well, not quite, but I’m having issues reaching a satisfactory conclusion. Err.. just think; had they been British, this band would have been called The13th Floor Lifts. Crazy!