An incomparable world of bug-eyed, harmony-rich folk-pop-psych-alt-country-rock lies in wait for intrepid listeners as the best Welsh band the world nearly forgot, El Goodo, return with only their fourth album in a 20-year career, Zombie. The first track to be revealed, The Grey Tower, via Strangetown Records, is an expansive, five-minute trip through the 60s heat of Lauren Canyon and Haight-Ashbury via the picturesque Vale of Neath.
The result of a rapid-fire period of easy-come recording at the legendary Rockfield Studios in the company of experimental producer, Tim Lewis (aka Thighpaulsandra, a Julian Cope collaborator and former member of Spiritualized), El Goodo’s 13-track long player gathers loose ends from the band’s stop-start lifespan, as well as brand new songs exploring parenthood, losing parents and – tangentially – Spanish surrealist film.
Featuring over 20 musicians – including core members Pixy Jones (lead vocals/guitars/keys), Elliott Jones (drums), Jason Jones (vocals/guitars) and Andrew Cann (bass) – the album welcomes contributions from Sweet Baboo/Stephen Black (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Flute) and Welsh Music Prize-nominee, Eugene Capper (violin/slide guitar). The Grey Tower itself is assembled of 17 players, finessing the ride between bright, sun-dappled hippy pop and intense, squally fuzz with saxophone, harmonica, heavy strings and a Baldwin Electric Harpsichord.
Of the first track out of the blocks, the traditionally retiring band says: “The Grey Tower is one of the newer songs on the album, in that they were written post-kids. It’s about being a new parent and having to work longs hours in a job you hate and wondering why you’re doing it when you should be at home.”
Originally intending their collaboration with a dedicated producer to be a double-album, a new sense of purpose and direction instead guided them to a drum-tight clutch of tracks that just fits on two sides instead of four. As well as recording Zombie direct to tape, El Goodo dug around in Lewis’ rich archive of analogue equipment at his Aeriel studio in Carmarthenshire, including a rare Univox early synth used by Joe Meek in the recording of his 1962 game-changer Telstar (now used by the band on I Can’t Leave). The result of their journey is a rich tapestry of valve-powered sound, recalling the White Album, Scott Walker, The Troggs, Gene Clark, the Beach Boys and numerous other ‘golden-age’ sonic explorers.
Named after Lewis’ sadly-departed dog, Zombie – etched in the band’s memories and nasal passages as a vegetable-loving creature, with noxious after effects – the album’s title follows in El Goodo’s tradition of naming albums after animals, succeeding 2009’s Coyote and 2017’s, widely-acclaimed, By Order Of The Moose.
Forming in the late 90s, El Goodo (named after the Big Star song, Ballad Of El Goodo) emerged with intent as not only a support band for Super Furry Animals on their 2006 Love Kraft UK tour, but also as label mates as the Furries released the band’s self-titled debut on their Placid Casual label in 2005. Haphazardly piecing together records using faulty equipment in a crumbling village hall in their sleepy hometown of Resolven, the next 15 years has seen El Goodo blip contentedly on the radar as a gently persistent musical jewel cherished by knowing audiophiles. Their association with the Furries persists as Zombie is released on Cian Ciarán and Dafydd Ieuan’s Cardiff-based, Strangetown Records.
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