We have always had the appetite for covers as B-sides, part of EPs, or as bonus tracks on albums but never quite as keen on complete albums just providing versions of other’s songs and don’t get us started on the merit of cover bands finding great success on the back of others songwriting talent but there is always an exception and the new album from LA based Medicine is one such captivation.
The brainchild of guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/producer Brad Laner, Medicine was one of the most potent bands to shape the emerging shoegaze/noise pop sound and scene in the nineties. After a hiatus of several years they have returned with Scarred For Life, as mentioned a collection of covers which take on new character with the touch of the band. Each song though does not feel like Medicine has deliberately dissected and rearranged them instead they feel like they have simply evolved through an organic and instinctive embrace of the band’s distinctive imagination. It brings potent diversity and rich fascination to the release alongside pleasure which is only escalated with the return of original vocalist Annette Zilinskas (also originally of The Bangles and later Blood On The Saddle, Weatherbell, and 3 Hole Punch).
With a line-up completed by guitarist Matt Devine and drummer Jim Goodall, he again one of the original Medicine members, the band opens up Scarred For Life with its title track and their take on the Slapp Happy song. Immediately a thick jangle of guitar descends as rhythms infectiously manipulate. Within the clamour a melodic breath lures with its temptation in full bloom as Zilinskas’ magnetic tones blossom within the muggy treat.
It is a compelling start to the release which Sentimental Lady more than reinforces. The Fleetwood Mac track similarly has a certain clamour which rises around the entrancing melodic invitation which initially preceded it. It is sonic smog as intense as it is ravening but with a composed trespass around the melodic sun which warmly beguiles before Dead Time Bummer Blues hugs and incites the senses with its luxuriant if raw breath and folkish swing. As all songs within the release there is nothing less than captivation on the agenda with the Judee Sill written track amongst the most irresistible.
Neil Young’s Expecting To Fly follows, resonating on the senses before melodic misting envelopes all and its romancing heart shares harmonic smouldering amidst bracing fuzziness. Enthralling from first to last breath but with increasing effect as keys, provided by Solo Goodspeed, weave their noble threads, the track becomes something truly individual to Medicine, the same easily said about both Absolutely Free and Listen To The Band straight after. The Mothers of Invention original is pure infection, its carnival-esque undercurrent bound in a cast of esurient enterprise and theatrical drama as the band develop the tracks original seeds into their own unpredictably creative parade. It is a glorious encounter followed by another which had the imagination bouncing. The more familiar second of the two is engraved on ears by The Monkees and Medicine simply emphasize its more feral aspects though when we say simply there is nothing less than instinctive adventure in every revisited note and syllable.
Through the rich almost suffocating and inescapably infectious pop fuzz of Sally Go Round The Roses, a hit originally for The Jaynetts, and the pure contagion of The Sweetest Girl, band and album only got further under the skin. The second of the two proved a definite favourite here, the Scritti Politti track bred here on an electronic shimmer with dub instincts cradling sheer captivation in the band’s vocals. It is aural romance, melodies and harmonies rapturous caresses within walls of sonic anxiety and scuzz fed anticipation.
The Green Country provides a canvas for the imagination next, it’s electronically bred instrumental wired by just as intimate and suggestive guitar quick food for thought and emotive interpretation while Pickup Song with its sepia lit keys and atmosphere is an evocative embrace of shadows and melancholic magnetism around and inspired by the slowcore droned air of the Codeine original.
Both tracks simply fascinated as the album moved into far darker corners which are further engaged in album closer, Black Satin. The Miles Davies composed track is a jungle of sound and textures, a heated and slightly imposing yet addictively virulent incitement of sound and enterprise on body and emotion.
It is a great end to a release which has increasingly had us absorbed and pleasured. As we hope new material is on the horizon from Medicine, Scarred For Life is a spellbinding return to be getting on with.
Scarred for Life is out now through Drawing Room Records; available @ https://bradlaner.bandcamp.com/album/scarred-for-life-4
Pete RingMaster 31/10/2019
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