Artists from Elton John to Blue Oyster Cult have gladly handed lyric-writing duties over to an outside party. Yet even with their deep knowledge of that tradition, Portland psych-pop quintet Eyelids approached the prospect of recording an album using the words of Larry Beckett with some trepidation. Some of that was to do with the poet/lyricist’s legacy as a collaborator of Tim Buckley, the late folk legend. But there were also worries of not being able to connect with words that weren’t their own.
None of that apprehension is present in Eyelids’ fourth full-length, The Accidental Falls. The group still finds fresh possibilities in the seemingly exhausted supply of guitar-based music, assisted through every step of the journey by producers Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Tucker Martine.
They apply the perfect amounts of shimmer and aching melody to “Mermaid Blues” and the slow-building “Ceremony,” and dogged rock on the title track and “1, 2, 3.” The latter may be one of their finest moments as a band, starting with a sinuous groove and closing with an acid-drenched guitar battle.
The addition of Beckett’s lyrics only draws the band’s psychedelic influences further into focus. As with his poetry, Beckett delights in wordplay (“Kiss me I slap/ Slap me I kiss/ I’ve had enough of ‘Love Me Tender’,” Chris Slusarenko sings on “River”), and slightly starry-eyed visions (see: the lovelorn “Mermaid Blues”) reminiscent of his best-known work like “Song to the Siren” or “Morning Glory.”
Combined with vocal turns from Chris Slusarenko and John Moen that evoke Left Banke singer Steve Martin Caro or Colin Blunstone of the Zombies, The Accidental Falls feels like a successful version of those rerecordings that bands from the 1960s and ’70s make as a way to update their hits for a modern audience.
Eyelids play on Friday, February 28, at the Clock-Out Lounge. With Zebra Hunt and the Yes Masters.