Fri Jan 2, Sunset, 9 pm, $7.
I had one of the great "whatever" moments recently when an irritated reader decided to give me some unsolicited, face-to-face advice. A gray-haired guy in an army surplus jacket swooped in while I was sitting at a bar and got right to the point. Wasting no time with introductions, he let it be known that my personal music tastes are myopic and that I need to listen to more than just "one kind of band." Because I had just come from the Shoegazer's Ball at Chop Suey, I was freshly fortified with all the justification I needed to go right on believing that drugged-out, psychedelic pop is the best kind of music on the planet. I shrugged, my posture silently conveyed "duh," and I thanked the guy for his feedback. And anyone who has a problem with the following story on Seattle's like-minded Green Pajamas can expect the same reaction from me.
Technically, Green Pajamas are not a shoegazer band. Theirs is a sound less turbulent and a bit cleaner than the genre demands. But the Green Pajamas' psychedelic elements--understated swathes of feedback and dreamy vocals--lend the band toward that shoegazer antecedent known as Paisley Underground, a subgenre of jangle pop that added chiming guitars to folk rock, resulting in distinctively trippy, moody-yet-ebullient bands like Opal and their successors Rain Parade and Mazzy Star, and the Three O'Clock. Chances are, however, that many fans of these bands are unaware of the Green Pajamas' near-two-decade existence, and it's a safe bet that only the most dedicated dream-pop devotees realize the band members are local residents. I had no idea either, actually, until a few years ago when a friend of mine who works for a major label was in town to check out a band opening for the Green Pajamas, whom I had never seen. Knowing my tastes quite well, he was shocked by my ignorance of them.
As soon as the headliners began their set, I made a mental note to snap up all the Green Pajamas records I could find. Founded in 1984 by Jeff Kelly and Joe Ross, Green Pajamas made their debut with Summer of Lust, an album that got more attention from British audiences than American ones and was compared to the Dukes of Stratosphear. A flurry of excellent yet little-heard releases followed over the next decade, but it would be 1997's Strung Behind the Sun, which came out on Australia's lauded Camera Obscura label, that would finally grant the band at least a portion of the notoriety they deserved. Said Kelly recently when I pinned him down amid the holiday haze, "What I worry about is making good records for those who want to listen, whether those people live here or the East Coast, England, or Europe. And I do work hard at it. That's what it's all about for me and I don't mind that Patrick MacDonald doesn't review them in the Seattle Times when I can read about whatever our latest release is in the London Sunday Times!"
Seven Fathoms Down and Falling (1999) was my favorite for a long time, its Revolver-esque bristlings and Byrdsian melodies sounding as coolly majestic as any Spacemen 3 offering and certainly as warped as Spiritualized's Lazer Guided Melodies. The song titles served as apt advertising for what the listener could expect to hear inside: "Planet Love," "Riverfull of Reasons," and the gorgeously non-sequitur "Still Never Away." Northern Gothic from 2002 was good, too--a darkly hypnotic and atmospheric concept album that was spun from the band's desire to evoke the dank beauty of the Pacific Northwest with Canadian writer Andrew Pyper's novel Lost Girls. Folk forms a union with psychedelic pop, and on Northern Gothic, Kelly's love of the Beatles is incorporated into the verdant lushness of a sound rooted in the kind of perspective that living in this region instills.
This past October the band saw the release of Through Glass Colored Roses, a quasi-greatest-hits compilation ("greatest songs" is a better descriptor) that has replaced Seven Fathoms Down and Falling as my favorite Green Pajamas disc, even if it is apt to put off at first those made curious by this glowing introduction. If you're the type who leans toward the reverb-heavy side of trippy pop, then it's track three, "Rattlesnake Kiss," that will kick off your love fest. Fuzzed-out and not unlike something off the Jesus and Mary Chain masterpiece Psychocandy, the song is the perfect lead-in to what I promise will be your new favorite obsession. I give you my full support in your quest to broaden your horizons while remaining true to your deepest music-genre love.