When Grave Flowers Bongo Band’s debut album Flower Pot came out on L.A.’s Permanent Records in 2018, it was something of an anomaly. It was different from the usual garage and psych records Permanent puts out (like Frankie and the Witch Fingers, among others), and felt like a descendent of Tyrannosaurus Rex, Marc Bolan’s late 60s freak folk act (that later evolved into glam rockers T. Rex). GFBB mastermind Gabe Flores’s stripped down—but still tripped-out—arrangements gave Flower Pot a unique vibe among the modern wave of neo-psych acts. Fast-forward to 2021 and GFBB has followed in the Rex’s footsteps, evolving into a full-fledged band. But does that evolution mean a loss of what made them unique?
Far from it. In fact, Strength of Spring represents a giant leap forward for the band in almost every area, from the songwriting to the playing to the production. The latter is handled by modern psych legend Ty Segall, and his expertise behind the boards helps augment the band’s newly expanded sound. The result is a record that shares some DNA with the band’s debut, but spreads its tendrils out to numerous other corners of the psychedelic universe. While acoustic guitars still underpin many of the tracks, electric guitars, keyboards, pedal steel, and sax add new textures—not to mention blistering solos—that move the band’s sound firmly into psych- and prog-rock territory.
From opener “Lazy River,” with its proggy arpeggiated guitar runs and hypnotic krautrock groove, to the psych-pop melodies and heavy riffs of “Smile,” the record runs the gamut of late 60s and early 70s styles while still managing to feel cohesive and unique. It may not have the stylistic unity that made Flower Pot such a unique experience, but the diversity of sounds are tied together by Flores’s strong songwriting, which more than makes up for it. These songs shapeshift in surprising ways, keeping the listener on their toes but never losing the plot.
With Strength of Spring, Grave Flowers Bongo Band have themselves shapeshifted into a new form. The qualities that made Flower Pot so distinctive are still here, but they’ve developed so extensively that it almost sounds like a totally different band. GFBB have always had songs brimming with interesting ideas—with Strength of Spring, those ideas have been much more fully realized.
Key Tracks: “Sleepy Eyes” / “Smile” / “Animal Lord”
Artists With Similar Fire: Dungen / King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard / Hooveriii
-Reviewed by Simon Workman
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