I can hear the grass grow.

Back when I first got the second Nuggets box set, The Move were one of the first bands that caught my attention. It probably helped a little that their song was within the first half-dozen tracks on the box, but mostly it was just the sheer brilliance of "I Can Hear The Grass Grow" that piqued my interest. It's obviously the story of a young mod walking around his hometown while tripping on acid, and the musical backing to this story is catchy and distinctive; perhaps a touch more melodic than the average garage-rock track of the era, but still retaining plenty of kick (especially in Ace Kefford's thick, menacing bassline) and making up for the slight pop edge with plenty of trippy details gained through unconventional instrumentation and strategic reverb on the vocals. This song has made plenty of mixes over the years, and I'm sort of surprised that it's taken so long for me to actually obtain anything by The Move (actually, though, I downloaded all of their albums at one point last year, but before I could familiarize myself with them, my computer crashed and I lost everything I hadn't backed up--which was a lot).

But recently, I located a 29-track deluxe reissue of their first album. The original album doesn't include "I Can Hear the Grass Grow", but it was added as a bonus track along with several other non-LP singles from the same era. Now, I've often heard people praise the later work by The Move more heavily than the work of their original mid-60s mod/psych lineup. However, I look upon this praise with skepticism--after all, it's apparently the later work, after Jeff Lynne joined the band, that points most clearly to Lynne and original Move guitarist Roy Wood's eventual formation of ELO, a band I completely and totally hate. Plus, if there's one thing that this deluxe reissue has made clear, it's that "I Can Hear The Grass Grow" is not an isolated incident. Nope, The Move created a lot of catchy psychedelic pop songs during their initial era as a band, all of which retained a significant portion of garage-rock heaviness. There are a few string-laden duds here, such as "The Girl Outside", and even one obvious example of the whimsical sense of humor that would later overtake the band and point the way for ELO--a 50's doo-wop pastiche entitled "Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart", which definitely does not hold up to repeated listenings.

Fortunately, these questionable tracks are outnumbered by the essential tunes on this album, which begin immediately with "Yellow Rainbow", a song that begins with a distorted guitar riff over backwards drums. Both of these drop out after only two repetitions, at which point Ace Kefford comes in with a thudding bass intro that moves into the main body of the song. As with "I Can Hear The Grass Grow", the chorus of "Yellow Rainbow" is undeniably catchy, with its melody driven by falsetto backing vocals, but with Kefford's thick bassline and rolling tom fills from drummer Bev Bevan keeping things driving forward. "(Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree" is much more unabashedly pop, with tinkling electric piano overtaking the bass (which is already much louder and more upfront in the mix than the softly strummed guitars) on the singsong choruses, and a string quartet on the song's bridge, but nonetheless it distinguishes itself due to the tenacity of the chorus, which will stick in your head all day. "Weekend" shows a 50s influence in a similar manner to "Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart", but it's a much more serious song, which mixes the garage/psych elements of The Move's sound with the rockabilly swing of 50s stars like Gene Vincent and Carl Perkins to create an excellent synthesis of these two similar but distinct styles. And closing track "Cherry Blossom Clinic" also manages a synthesis, this time of The Move's two different standard styles. It begins with the standard thudding bass and snarling guitars of their more garage-rock tracks, and this sound dominates on the verses. But as the choruses come in, strings and horns rise out of the murky mix and take the entire song into a much more orchestrated pop direction. By the end of the song, Ace Kefford's bass and Trevor Burton's distorted guitar are every bit as loud as the strings, horns, and Carl Wayne's pretty vocal track. But rather than fighting for dominance, these two sounds achieve harmony, in much the same way that the two distinct sides of The Move find harmony over the course of the entire album.

There are many more great songs here, from the single "Fire Brigade" to the non-LP B-side "The Disturbance" (which outshines its original A-side, "Night Of Fear", and raises the question of why the band would have released the songs in that order, instead of flipping them--perhaps because of "The Disturbance"s chaotic, disturbing [no pun intended] ending?) and the catchy, poppy album track "Flowers In The Rain"--which, if you listen closely enough to the lyrics, seems to come from that same secretly-tripping perspective as "I Can Hear The Grass Grow". And there are even more than that, but really, if I'm going to list them all, we'll be here all day. Suffice it to say that my further exploration into the music of The Move has been a thoroughly enjoyable endeavor. I'm less enthused about checking out their later records, since Trevor Burton and Ace Kefford left before their second LP, with Carl Wayne also departing immediately after that one--all of which leads me to think that their later work was that of a decidedly different band. However, I'd recommend the self-titled debut Move album to anyone, especially the deluxe edition, as many of the unreleased songs included on it are just as good as the LP tracks.

The Move - Yellow Rainbow
The Move - Cherry Blossom Clinic

More boneheaded proto-metal awesomeness coming in a day or two.



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