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Poison In the Russian Room

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Album Review

Seattle's Green Pajamas have been building a formidable catalog of shape-shifting neo-psychedelic-power pop since their inception in the mid-'80s. Unlike other veteran acts, the band has managed to navigate through the minefield of music scenes over the ensuing decades with its integrity intact, gleaning bits of grunge, dream pop, alternative folk, and indie rock where it sees fit while holding true to its paisley underground roots. On Poison in the Russian Room, the group's seventh release for Hidden Agenda, the band has crafted its most cohesive and blisteringly esoteric collection yet by combining the best attributes of the Pacific Northwest (the grungy guitars of the city center and the rainy acid folk of the islands). A self-described "conceptual piece," Poison in the Russian Room lurches out of the tool shed with the heavy-handed "Lonesome End of the Lake," a brutal midtempo jam that blends the attitude and decibels of Urge Overkill with the druggy haze of late-period Current 93. That trajectory is followed loosely throughout the album's first half before spiraling into a Comus/Horslips rabbit hole of late-'60s/early-'70s acid folk — singer Jeff Kelly's yo-yo vocal delivery is eerily reminiscent of Incredible String Band mastermind Robin Williamson — called "In Search of the Elusive Fairy Queen and Some Pleasure Unknown." Atmospheric instrumental vignettes and spooky vocal breakdowns that feel like "cutscenes" in a horror video game are peppered throughout the record, adding to its surreal, cinematic nature, but it's the proper songs that carry the most weight, especially Eric Lichter's "Suicide Subways," an oddly beautiful yet ultimately unsettling account of people who leap to their death in the Tokyo underground.


Formed: 1984 in Seattle, WA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s

The neo-psychedelic band the Green Pajamas were founded in Seattle in 1984 by Jeff Kelly and Joe Ross. A lifelong music fan, Kelly began composing his first songs at the age of 11, forming a group called the Electric Garbage Cans; after his parents purchased him a reel-to-reel tape recorder, he spent his teenage years compiling literally hundreds of cassettes of original material. After graduating college, Kelly briefly joined a new wave band dubbed the Larch; he met Ross at a party soon after, and...
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Poison In the Russian Room, The Green Pajamas
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