Quarantine Diaries: Time Traveling with Melody Fields

Drop the needle and right away you’re needing to give your inner eye a quick squeegee.

The Sixties. The decade when all good music was made. The greatest albums of all time. Except that’s not true, is it? Arguably, what we mean when we say the ’60s is the years between 1965 and 1969, plus a few earlier records by the Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys and Dylan. A switch flicks in ’65 and we get RubberSoul-OutOfOurHeads-BeachBoysToday-BringingItAllBackHome-Highway61Revisited-BlackMonkTime-ThePrettyThings-TheGreatOtisReddingSingsSoulBallads-BertJansch-MrTambourineMan-ThePaulSimonSongbook-OtisBlue-TurnTurnTurn-MyGeneration-HereAreTheSonics-TheTransfigurationOfBlindJoeDeath.

This doesn’t include the brilliant jazz records that came out prior to this date.  I’m talking about “pop” music, as it was classified then. Rock, pop, soul, whatever. That splurge of great, innovative music that poured out across those twelve months is still being felt today. And the albums that followed in ’66? ’67? The tremors of those classic singles from the early ’60s would erupt in a volcano of sound that is still being felt now.

Melody Fields aren’t from the ’60s, though you might be forgiven for thinking they’re some long lost acid group from that hallowed time.  The sleeve looks like something from the peak of the psychedelic era. Think Disraeli Gears but less shit. Drop the needle and right away you’re needing to give your inner eye a quick squeegee. 

So the first thing to say about this Swedish band is that there’s nothing particularly new here. So what. That’s true of a lot of great bands. These guys are tapped right into a bygone world of crushed velvet flairs and brown acid. The genius here is that they do it so well. Like The Strokes reconfiguring the sound of CBGBs for an audience who hadn’t even been born the first time round. And of course, they’re not the first bunch of hairy misfits to tap into these grooves. Spacemen 3 and Loop also spring to mind, along with the first two Spiritualized albums, back before Jason Spaceman disappeared up his own arse. 

So again, drop the needle on it and get sucked into that vortex, ride the drones and jangles and feel your synapses begin to crackle and fizz. Little maelstroms of chaos swirling across the landscape of your cortex. Jump in. Feel the little fishes swim between your toes. You’ll get notes of patchouli and reefer. Like that first Spiritualized album, Laser Guided Melodies, the songs blend into one another. This isn’t a bad thing. The melodies are varied and sparkle across the album. But the mood is there. The mood that sucks you in and keeps you captive. But while that first Spiritualized record always felt a little dry in its production, this feels fresh and warm. The music breathes. Unlike Spacemen 3 and their relentless drugginess, or Loop with their tough, raw guitar sound, there is a deftness here. A lightness of touch. 

Another group that spring to my mind is Cosmic Rough Riders, those jangly Glaswegian guys who caused a minor stir at the start of the century. But while CRR were clearly enthralled by the Byrds, Love and Buffalo Springfield, Melody Fields are much better at submerging their influences.  Yeah, the spirit of ’67 is here in all its raging glory, but it doesn’t sound derivative. When I first played it, it felt like a discovery. A lost album from that time. One of those pieces that gets a loving vinyl repress years later and is held up as a lost classic.

Being a Swedish group, it only seems right to namecheck the axis of Pärson Sound, International Harvester, and Träd, Gräs och Stenar. These cult classics are similarly rooted in drones and lysergic mayhem. What Melody Fields bring to the table is an emphasis on tunes and songs. 

So when I’m feeling a hankering for that magical era before I was born, when music was real and the industry hadn’t yet become quite so industrial, maybe I’ll stick on some Traffic. But more likely, I’ll expand my consciousness with this gem.