“Take some wisdom, take some truth/ Drive the high road to the Fountain of Youth.” ~The Dragons’ “Food for My Soul“
Reflecting on Devendra Banhart’s recent performance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, my colleague John Zeiss joked about the number of obvious sex metaphors. To wit, “I want to be your cow/ Give you all the milk around town/ Let me see you drink it all down” is as clear as “I take you to the candy shop/ I’ll let you lick the lollipop.” (I hear you, Dr. Dyson). However, although Mister Fisty may be “[doing] us the service of being explicit and articulate about the rage,” Banhart is intentionally jarring. Though apparently quaint and referential of a pastime weeded paradise, Banhart also creates tension by demonstrating the implausibility of such “innocence” by today’s standards. Oh, the irony!
So, in a world that becomes more nuanced with each passing generation, what chance does a record that is dated (because it is actually thirty-seven years old) have of “making it”? Such is the million-dollar question facing the Dragons’ long-delayed debut. A kitchen-sink psyche-surf rock opera recorded in the wee hours of 1970 by three brothers in Hollywood, BFI (an acronym for “Blue Forces Intelligence,” a name without any apparent explanation from the brothers themselves) covers every imaginable corner of the then-contemporary music map.
Thus, songs like “Cosmosis” and “Sunset Scenery” drip with Endless Summer nostalgia and the halcyon haze of Angeleno beach culture. As you can imagine, the entire record remains stuck in that period. Which perhaps works for those who prefer their Zombies-esque jams to also employ Charlie Chan-style choia-chong references “Sandman,” or their Fifth Dimension harmonies with a dash of found sounds.
The experimental mish-mash of ideas is understandably attractive — DJ Food pursued the proper issue of the record after finding “Food for My Soul” on an obscure soundtrack — but it pulls mostly from the most mediocre pool. The results are occasionally interesting, even brilliant, as on the aforementioned “Food,” “Sunset” and the gently progressive “Mercy Call.” But overall they’re hardly revelatory. Sometimes, the past remains stuck in the past for good reason.