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18 March 2016

Green Pajamas - 'Book of Hours' (Green Monkey)

Scored this for $1 back in the day and I think I spun it all of 1.5 times, though I was quite fond of the Pajamas during their brief late 90s comeback run on Camera Obscura. By then they were embracing 6's throwback stuff a bit more, everything shot through a soft-focus lens, etc. -- whereas this album, I think their second, has a bright 1980s feel to it. This may be due to the balance of songwriting; main Pajamas muse Jeff Kelly doesn't have Joe Ross here, as he had temporarily left the band, but rather bassist Steve Lawrence and keyboardist Bruce Haedt. Kelly's songwriting is as sharp as always, though his style clashes with the others. Kelly's maudlin 'The Night Miss Sundby Died' feels very odd against Lawrence's 'Ain't So Bad' - the latter is a rave-up in the style of some 60s party jam, which is a bit jarring after the lush romanticism of the former. Haedt's 'Higher Than I've Been' also feels out of place, like some Nuggets-era forgotten tune, spry and bouncy, and really something that would be OK in a different context. Or maybe it's just that I associate Kelly's youthful voice with this band so much that other vocalists just feel like something wrong. Album closer 'Time of Year' (which has a great bagpipe part, probably the most successful incorporation of bagpipes into guitar-pop that I've ever heard, and a great chorus part to ride us out) has Kelly wistfully crooning 'It's the time of year / when everyone should be in love', which is pretty much a definitive statement of purpose for the Green Pajamas. Their custom brand of melancholy may not be present in these lyrics,  at least not obviously, but I assure you that it's heard in his delivery. The arrangements are really nice on Book of Hours, fleshed out with keyboards and multi-tracked guitars, yet never feeling too heavy. Even the horn section on 'Paula' supports the songwriting rather than just being a needless flourish. Their first album, Summer of Lust, was only released as a cassette and feels like one, so must be where they stepped forward with a bigger production because, well, that's what you do when you go to wax! A quick glance at discogs reveals a zillion albums since the last one I listened to (which was 1999's All Clues Lead to Meagan's Bed) and I bet they're all as enjoyable as this one - not an everyday pop album to fall in love with and learn intimately, but a pleasant jolt back to the less heralded side of the mid-1980s when I actually remember I have it. 'Kim The Waitress' was their first single, which Wikipedia refers to as a 'regional hit single', a term which is more of a throwback than their sound supposedly is. The photo on the back of the inner sleeve features them posing artfully on a hillside, clad in peacoats and cardigans, in case you had any doubt about where they stood against the backdrop of mid-80s punk/new wave/indie music: confidently and stridently out of time. And god bless 'em.

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