Monday, June 26, 2006

Vinyl Tap: The Plimsouls - Everywhere At Once


I get a new turntable and dust off some old records. Vinyl Tap #2:

“This world keeps turning ‘round / You can’t turn it back” goes a line from the song “Play the Breaks” on Everywhere At Once, the 1983 album from the short-lived but essential coulda-been-contenders the Plimsouls.

Sometimes though, you can not only turn it back, it now sounds better and more timeless than ever. Everywhere evokes enough '60s traces with its firm garage band-grasp, get up and go-go, and farfisa-fied sound -- some Sky Saxon sneers here and some psychedelic snippets of too-much-to-dream wah-wah or raga there -- to recall the raw power and stripped-down skills of such bands as the Seeds, Standells, Leaves, Blues Magoos, Count Five, and Sir Douglas Ouintent. Indeed, the two fairly obscure ‘60s covers in this no-nonsense rockin' steamroller of a record, the Equals' "My Life Ain’t Easy" and Mouse and the Traps’ "Lie, Beg, Borrow and Steal," are interwoven almost seamlessly with the newer songs written or co-written by Peter Case, who is also the leader and lead singer. Talk about being everywhere at once.

But Case leaves his own mark on Everywhere with his impassioned vocals, rave-on frenetic pacing, sporadic jangly Byrds-like folk-rock elements and toughened-up sensibilities that transcend any mere narrowed-down novelty or nostalgia appeal. Taken together, the power packs a punch in such highlights as “Magic Touch,” “How Long Will It Take?” “Inch by Inch” and the title song, which -- true to its kitchen-sink appellation -- seems to have bits and pieces of such ingredients as “Pipeline”-style surf guitar and rockabilly-esque Dwight Twilley Band raucousness.

The slower tempo of “That’s The Oldest Story In The World” changes the pace just a little, but perhaps -- in an album that lets in little lyrical and thematic sweetness and light -- to more effectively twist the knife in a little deeper:

    It makes perfect sense
    Seeing how the seeds were sown
    To find you out there own your own
    You said your goodbyes
    And broke all the ties
    It struck me dumb
    To think I tried for you


After all, it’s the oldest story in the world, Case contends, case closed in an apt allusion: “You’ll hear it again and again / Just like a Rolling Stone.”

Consistency and quality aside, these rough-edged and readily trenchant songs are not the main reason why I or anybody bought this Plimsouls album. That distinction would lie with the very-deserved classic “A Million Miles Away,” not only one of the best rock songs of the ‘80s but also one of the finest ever. Over twenty years later it still packs a wallop with a potently perfect merging of escapist musicality and words that will indeed carry you away for three minutes and thirty-four minutes of hard-driven delirium punctuated by swirls of Roger McGuinn-like guitar that leans toward the “Eight Miles High” life:

    Friday night I'd just got back
    I had my eyes shut
    Was dreaming about the past
    I thought about you while the radio played
    I should have got moving
    For some reason I stayed

    I started drifting to a different place
    I realized I was falling off the face of the world
    And there was nothing left to bring me back

    I'm a million miles away
    A million miles away
    A million miles away
    And there's nothing left to bring me back today


Whether eight miles or a million, this song, and the entirety of Everywhere at Once, will take you metaphorically and evocatively everywhere at once -- to the ‘60s, the ’80s, and at the same time a different place where you realize you are “falling off the face of the world.” You’ll be transported and transfixed -- that’s what good music should do, and that's just what the Plimsouls indeed accomplish here.

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