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The High Life Suite

Baby Lemonade

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Album Review

Ahh, Baby Lemonade's third album is a wonderful, cheeky effort that would be redeemed by its whimsicality even if it was not so classically (in the AM rock sense) supreme on a musical level. It's a record that manages to have it both ways. It is streamlined to an airtight finish (the gargantuan guitars are so crisp and pristine — even when they have a nasty '70s grit like Thin Lizzy or very early Steely Dan — that you could eat dinner off them) but it is also a groggy, hungover, gauze-colored daydream that reimagines that old El Lay sound of yore. The solo albums put out the previous year by both Mike Randle and Rusty Squeezebox without a doubt had a galvanizing influence on the The High Life Suite, particularly the more hallucinatory, languid moments here, like the soft opening strains of "Ballad of Scott Pain" and breezy "Reno." But the album outright explodes with glittery eyefuls of color from the completely Big Star gestures of "High Life" to the detailed flourishes that follow 'til the end. "Flourishes" is actually a rather inaccurate description since the album is, at all times, a playful and self-conscious pastiche. The band treats it as an homage not just through its seamless sequencing á la side two of Abbey Road, but through its melodic and harmonic impulses as well. The Beatles landmark album is clearly the structural model, and it places Baby Lemonade in a category all its own. As many artists as have looked to White Album-album-and-before Fab Four for the melodic and textural sensibilities, none have even approached the milepost Abbey Road, let alone try to outplay the record at its own game, exactly what happens here, as on "Ocean Bleu," where the quartet solders together the Beatles' "Because" and "Sun King" with Sunflower-era Beach Boys. The song, like much of the suite, comes out sounding translucently lovely and harmonically spectral in a way that rock music has rarely approached since its larger-than-life heyday pre-mid-1970s. Impeccably fine-tuned and intricately crafted, The High Life Suite ultimately transcends any allusions that can be thrown its way. It is, without a doubt, intentionally derivative, but, as with the best efforts of Todd Rundgren, it is intentionally derivative in only clever, unique, and ultimately timeless ways.

Biography

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The neo-psychedelic quartet Baby Lemonade formed in Los Angeles, and debuted in 1994 with the six-song Wonderful EP, released on the Sympathy for the Record Industry label. Following the record's release, the band — comprised of singer/guitarist Rusty Squeezebox, guitarist Mike Randle, bassist Dave Chapple and drummer David "Daddy-O" Green — accepted an invitation to tour with Arthur Lee in a reunited version of his legendary band Love; a flurry of major label interest followed, but in...
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The High Life Suite, Baby Lemonade
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