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Album Review

The first three Coctails albums were raw, fun home recordings made in the relative isolation of the band's Kansas City home. This record, however, was released after the Coctails moved to Chicago and immersed themselves in the local jazz and college rock scene. Perhaps this geographical change accounts for the shift from the frenzied experimentalism of their earlier records to the taut melodicism of Peel. The reeds, clarinets, and vibraphones are gone, replaced with a surprisingly straightforward guitar-based sound. The result is a record of surprising quality, especially for one so wholly different from the band's previous work. The shift from "novelty" band (distributing dolls of group members and recording a children's record) to serious college rock poster boys is so complete, it's hard to imagine they recorded "Jobless" and "Wicked Ways" at all, let alone in the same two-year period. But while this record lacks the carefree, informal vibe of their early material, it does boast some exceptional songwriting as John Upturch, Barry Phillips, and Archer Prewitt all turn in delicious hook-laden gems. The band's constant swapping of instrumental and vocal duties gives the record a varied, complex feel while saving it from monotony. Thus, the quiet strumming of "Weather King" is placed adjacent to the jangling immediacy of "2000," and the album's instrumentals serve as fine palate cleansers between pop songs. A consistent listen from top to bottom, Peel brims with polished talent, making it among the most vital recordings of Chicago's early-'90s underground scene.

Customer Reviews

The Coctails - Peel

Amazing. That was the word that came to mind the first time I heard this album in 1994, and It's still what I say when I hear it over 15 years later. I had been a fan of the early beat/folk inspired music of the Coctails and had followed their progression from there through their free jazz influenced work on "Long Sound". Though I had been privy to some initial versions of the sound that would come to make up the essence of the Peel album, I was not prepared for the depth of the growth that the band would show with this album. It is an eclectic work of rock music art, and represents a watershed moment for the band, and truly the artistic high point of their career in my opinion. From the punchy mod stylings of Miss Maple and Postcard (which has one of the greatest guitar solos I've ever heard), to the folk rock of And you could, Cottonbelt and Even time, and the Slint-esque Peel and Daylight, the album never seems unbalanced. Though the multiple musical styles represented here would have made great albums of their own, they all work perfectly together here as well. It's no surprise that the members of the Coctails have all gone on to continued success with their artistic and musical careers. They are one of the few great bands that truly left their fans wanting more, and their legacy will remain intact because of choices they made to remain true to their art. Amazing.


Formed: 1989 in Kansas City, MO

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s

Progenitors of the lounge revival movement, kitsch-pop icons the Coctails formed in Kansas City in 1989; making their debut at an area art gallery clad in matching yellow tuxedos complete with maroon bowties. The group (singers/multi-instrumentalists Archer Prewitt, Mark Greenberg, John Upchurch, and Barry Phipps) forged a unique, eclectic sound celebrating the sound and imagery of '50s-era space age bachelor pad music, drawing influence from everyone from Miles Davis to Martin Denny. After issuing...
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Peel, The Coctails
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