All Night Radio – Spirit Stereo Frequency
One of the most captivating, yet brief moons in the Beachwood Sparks orbit was the one-off, All Night Radio, formed by members Dave Scher and Jimi Hey. I came to the first couple of Beachwood albums, the Tyde debut, and this one around the same time. While playing a bit of catch-up, I quickly becoming entranced by the cosmic country and psych-pop landscape of the extended Sparks universe. Hey and Scher named the band after their shared history with late night radio — Scher having been a DJ KXLU back in 1995 and Hey a high school-aged listener who would call in with requests every night. As time wore on, Hey served as the drummer for Beachwood Sparks’ early run and Scher on pedal steel, but Hey would leave the group before the Midsummer Daydream single and their following debut. It was when returned to the fold in 2002, that he and Scher would reconnect around a shared love of influences that skewed towards a more Nuggets-draped prog sound than what the band was currently working. Thus, All Night Radio was born and their singular album Spirit Stereo Frequency still stands as one of the great gems of the early aughts.
The band gets into a bit of the gauze that they’d been exploring with Beachwood Sparks on tracks like “Sky Bicycle,” but there is a more more driving interest in rhythm, fuzzed guitars and ballooned organs — the kind of psych-pop excess that can go sideways in the wrong hands. They embraced fantastical string swells, Lee Perry Dub, Zombies harmonies, and effects soaked interludes, and yet beneath the concept both Scher and Hey created some of their most affecting songs. They’re able capture a whimsical dreamscape that fully exploited the psych-pop format and still craft bittersweet pop that transcended its genre. The album sets out to craft a world of late-night radio transmissions that feel like they may or may not be imagined — a broadcast that’s just as likely playing from the speakers beside the bed as it is from inside the listeners’ heads. The tracks ooze together with a kind of sticky sweetness that’s gloriously disorienting and utterly fantastic. The original record was out on Sub Pop but seems to have fallen out of print in later years. If you missed it the first time around there’s now a small reissue on UK label Big Potato, available in both purple and black. An utterly essential piece of the psych-pop canon for Beachwood Sparks stalwarts and newcomers alike. Also, if interested, check out this great recent interview with them over at It’s Psychedelic Baby.
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